Hecklers arrested as Cambridgeshire County Council votes for cuts

17 February 2011

Three hecklers, including one Cambridge student, had to be removed from Shire Hall yesterday, as Cambridgeshire County Council approved £50 million of budget cuts for 2011/2012 and cuts of £160.6 million over the next five years.

Around 30 protesters blockaded one of the entrances to the council building using tape and traffic cones. Cllr Christine Carter told The Cambridge Student that she would vote against the cuts, but criticised demonstrators: “The protesters are making their point very clear, but it doesn’t have to be done in this manner. I’m not going to pay the parking fee in Cambridge.”

Yet a youth volunteer emphasised the importance of action: “Youth services are being cut and hundreds of the most vulnerable young people in Cambridge are being affected. It’s a sector that’s being hit hard.”

Around twenty minutes into the meeting, during the “Public Question Time,” Jacob Wills, a 3rd year King’s student and member of Cambridge Defend Education, and Cambridge resident Jannie Brightman caused a 15 minute suspension of proceedings after a series of heckles from the public gallery. According to Cambridgeshire police, both were arrested for breach of the peace having been warned several times by staff, before being de-arrested outside and told to leave the premises.

Wills had called on councillors to take a stand and resign their seats if they didn’t want to make cuts. According to Wills, having complied with staff requests to sit down, he was then asked to leave by the police. Having refused, he was reportedly handcuffed and forcibly removed from the building.

Wills told TCS: “It shows what a sham the Tories’ rhetoric of ‘local autonomy’ is when you can be arrested for protesting against cuts to local services.”

Later on in the afternoon, as debate continued, Cambridge resident Jill Eastland was arrested for the same offence, having been warned twice by staff for interrupting proceedings to accuse councillors for “only caring about the rich”, calling them “greedy bastards” and shouting, “shame on you!” Her outburst caused another suspension of the meeting. She was also de-arrested upon removal.

The proposals were passed, 36 votes for to 15 against. They included 100% cuts to Cambridgeshire Music, Teenage Pregnancy Advice and Targeted Mental Health in Schools, and a 27.7% cut to the budget for teachers of children with special educational needs.

Conservative Council Leader, Cllr Jill Tuck, said they were “tough but fair decisions, linked to priorities, guided by what residents need”.

Labour leader, Cllr Tariq Sadiq said the proposals “run the risk of wrecking our society” and urged the Council “to go away and come back with a more balanced proposal”.

Michael Yoganayagam & Elspeth Carruthers – Deputy News Editors

Photo Credit: Devon Buchanan