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Leeds anticuts protesters occupy town hall

Today, at around 1pm, half an hour before Leeds Council were due to meet to pass a budget of swingeing cuts, hundreds braved the rain to lobby the meeting to refuse to implement the budget.

Around 75-100 people managed to occupy the main council chamber, where the meeting was to be held. Many more gathered outside, blocked from entering by the police, and others swarmed onto the balconies of the public gallery, dropping banners.

Chants rang out through the chamber, calling for "No Cuts, No Way, Make the bankers pay!" and "No ifs, No buts, No public sector cuts!"

The desks of the chamber were adorned (alongside upmarket bottles of water and wine glasses) with copies of the agenda, detailing the 8 hour meeting that would mean job losses and service losses for the people of Leeds. These were gathered by protesters, alongside the actual proposed budget itself – a thick wedge of a document, detailing every cut – this will be published at a later date.

Soon the councillors themselves arrived. Labour councillors were met with cries of "Labour councillors, cuts hurt, Don't do the Tories dirty work!" They, along with the Tories and Lib Dems who dared to show their faces looked suitably ashamed.

We demanded they pass a budget based on what people need – not what the millionaire coalition say they can afford!

The head of the council tried to get us to leave and was booed off. After around half an hour he returned to announce the meeting had been cancelled.

Protesters remained in the council chamber whilst others gathered in the lobby and tried to access the other floors to check the meeting wasn't being carried out elsewhere.

After around an hour we were satisfied the meeting had indeed been cancelled (supportive council workers told us they had to rearrange meetings formally in advance and in writing) and so we marched out – vocal and victorious!

We vowed to gather to protest and occupy wherever and whenever the council meet again to try to pass this horrific budget.

However, the councillors dishonestly went against their words and against their own rules and protocol. They reconvened in secret. The majority of protesters had dispersed and only a handful of our previous numbers could be gathered. We attempted to enter the building again, but with our diminished numbers and the reinforced police lines, we could not get in.

At the moment of writing, the council is holding a meeting which will have a devastating impact on the lives of millions across Leeds. They are doing this behind closed doors, with no transparency or accountability to the people who elected them or those whose lives they will ruin. This is the "democracy" we have in Britain today.

However, this is by no means the end. We, the workers, unemployed, pensioners, students and youth of Leeds, will fight to defeat every cut, defend every job and protect every service.

Send news, comments and reports to office@workerspower.co.uk

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