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Several people denied access to council chamber as Barnet Council approve budget cuts
MORE than a dozen residents were denied access to the council chamber to witness councillors vote in favour of cutting £29m from this year’s budget.
There were angry scenes as police and security staff barred people from an overflow room which only had an audio feed from the chamber from taking seats in the public gallery vacated during the meeting.
Twenty police and community support officers, as well as several black-clad security staff were drafted in to keep order for what the ruling Conservative party feared could be a difficult meeting.
Among cuts pushed through are eight children’s centres and the scrapping of sheltered housing wardens and lollipop crossing patrols and a lot of funding for youth services.
Mayor of Barnet Councillor Anthony Finn told councillors police had advised him they should not let more people into the gallery, for public safety.
But Lib Dem Councillor Lord Munroe Palmer told the chamber he had spoken to the Inspector and had been told they were happy to allow all but a small group in to take the empty seats.
There were several outbursts from the public gallery which disrupted the meeting, especially when the severing of grants to two museums and the artsdepot theatre in Finchley were mentioned by Councillor Robert Rams, who is in charge of the One Barnet plans.
Parking chief Councillor Brian Coleman was also greeted with a chorus of boos, which he welcomed with a smile, as he got up to explain his views on the plans.
He told the meeting: “Most residents of this borough will notice very little difference from this budget. They will notice their council tax has not increased from the second year in a row.”
On the subject of increased parking charges, where residents in controlled parking zones (CPZ) will see a 150 per cent hike in their permits to plug a gap in the parking account he said: “If you live in a CPZ there are consequences to the privileges you enjoy.”
This drew howls of disapproval from opposition Labour councillors.
They attacked the budget for cutting children’s centres despite the grant for Sure Start projects being the same as previous years, something leader Cllr Alison Moore said was a “Conservative choice”.
She added: “It’s quite obvious from this budget Barnet Tories do not listen, do not care and do not really know what they are doing.”
Lib Dem leader Councillor Jack Cohen described the administration as a “beacon of incompetence” and an “administration in crisis”.
But council leader Lynne Hillan admitted the budget was “painful”, but there were “no easy options”.
She added: “We’re going to have to stop providing some good services in order to maintain some of those vital services.
“Funding is available to the most vulnerable ion society, not those who shout loudest.”