It would be a little odd if I didn't blog about yesterday's budget Council meeting, and comment on some of the news coverage, although in most respects there is nothing new to say. There was a surprisingly small, indeed disappointingly small lobby outside the Town Hall yesterday morning.
A couple of newspapers described it as 2000 protestors surrounding the Town Hall but as the couple of papers were the Mail and the Sun nobody will be surprised that they were grossly inaccurate. The real figure was little more than hundred and personally, given the importance of the decisions being made and the number of people affected, I would have liked to have seen a lot more.
There were only eighty seats in the public gallery in the Great Hall for the meeting itself ( but that's more than we would have had if we had been meeting in the Council Chamber ). The majority of those were there because there were particular cuts proposals they were concerned about, and when the meeting started wanted to hear what was being said. There were also a small number that seemed to have little interest in anything other than making a lot of noise. The meeting did have to be adjourned twice early on because of the noise and protestors were warned that if that did continue that everybody would have to be cleared out of the public gallery. Democracy was not going to be halted. I went over a couple of times and spoke directly to the people there, some of whom were very concerned that they would be ejected because of the behaviour of others. I am pleased that it was a decision that the majority of those there took themselves, that they would stop being disruptive and allow those that wanted to, to hear proceedings.
From then on, at least until the very end, there was probably no more noise than we get in an average Council meeting and the business was conducted in an atmosphere appropriate to the seriousness of the occasion. The Executive's budget proposals were agreed with an amendment incorporating the Executive's response to the consultation which I blogged last week.
Not a good day. Not a pleasant day. But Manchester was able to uphold it's long held tradition of supporting the right to peaceful protest. Nobody was ejected from the Council meeting, and the democratic process was able to run its course. I do believe that the Council has produced the best budget for Manchester that it can in the circumstances. Others are entitled to disagree.