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Protestors march as £10.8m council cuts recommended for approval

"Please don't take away our lifeline" say campaigners

Dan Cooper

Reporter:

Dan Cooper

Email:

dan.cooper@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886632

Protestors march as £10.8m council cuts recommended for approval

WEST Berkshire Council is set to press ahead with £10.8m of cuts on March 1.

At a meeting of its executive last night (Thurs), the Conservative-controlled district council recommended that the first phase of savings are approved despite objections from more than 2,500 people.

The proposed cuts include closing four children's centres, one care home and cutting funding for disabled children, theatres and roads.

It also includes redundancies, funding cuts to the Citizen's Advice Bureau and buses, as well as an increase in car parking charges in Newbury, Thatcha, Theale and Pangbourne.

Before last night's meeting supporters of Mencap - one of the charities affected by the proposals - marched outside the council offices in Market Street in protest.

The charity is one of eight that is expected to have its funding for short breaks for disabled children cut. Mencap says it could lead to the closure of its after-school and Saturday clubs.

Employees, parents and children all demonstrated, holding banners and placards with the words 'children before cuts' and 'save our services'.

Mencap then presented a petition, signed by more than 3,500 people, to councillors.

Another petition handed to the council, signed by more than 350 people, was in protest of proposals to cut the 143 bus service from Upper Basildon towards Reading.

Andrew Wood, whose daughter Ellie has learning and physical disabilities said: “West Berkshire Mencap provides a chance for us to have a degree of a normal life.

"When Ellie is at Saturday club, my son gets to have a friend around or a bike ride with dad – the kind of things every child should do. If this funding gets cut, this aspect of our life will go. The siblings are innocents in all of this.”

However, despite all the objections, the council recommended that the cuts be approved next month.

The final decision will be made on March 1 at the council's full budget meeting.

This is just the start of the cuts. Next Monday, February 15, a fresh public consultation will begin on the second phase of cuts totalling £6.7m.

These include yet more increases to car parking charges, closing eight out of West Berkshire's nine libraries and increasing council tax by 3.99 per cent.

The consultation will run for three weeks, until March 7.

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