Protesters blockaded Britain's biggest council today to demand it stands up and fight against vicious government cuts.
The protesters blocked entrances to Birmingham City Council's headquarters, forcing councillors to use a rear door as they arrived for a budget meeting on whether to allow millions to be slashed from their city.
They called on the councillors to defy the government and implement a budget based on the needs of people.
The government has axed £110 million from Birmingham's budget this year, on top of £300m already cut. More cuts over the next two years will see the city's original budget of £1,100m halved.
Now even children's homes in the city, which care for some of Birmingham's most disturbed youngsters, face closure.
And councillors were even forced to adjourn their meeting following disruptions from protests in the public gallery.
The meeting resumed later in the afternoon after security staff cleared the gallery.
One Labour councillor argued against implementation of the cuts budget.
Across the city campaign groups joined forces to form Birmingham Against the Cuts.
Campaign secretary Godfrey Webster, who is vice-president of Birmingham Trade Union Council, said: "Until May last year we had a Tory-Lib Dem coalition running the council.
"In May it was voted out by a huge majority. We hoped the Labour council would take a different position to the cuts which before they came in totalled £300m out of a budget of £1,100m.
"Unfortunately the council came up with a provisional budget where they will cut a further £110m this year and a similar amount for the next two years, cutting it in half. Major services will disappear from the city.
"This year's cuts will close the remaining five children's homes. They include two used as respite centres for people with disabled children."
He said highly disturbed children will end up being "shunted around the country.
"Of course the council said it has no choice. We are saying it does have a choice. The first thing it could do is set a budget based on the needs of the city, rather than on the money they get from the centre and take it to the wire.
"The government then has the choice of paying up or sending in the administrators to run the city, which is a long process.
"Birmingham is the biggest council in the country. If it does not stand up and make a fight about this, who will?"
Vital services in the government's line of fire include voluntary organisations which, despite helping 5,500 of the city's most vulnerable children, are set to lose £4.4m, school transport, children's centres and youth clubs face the axe.
No vote on implementing the cuts had been taken as the Star went to press.
Similar draconian government cuts are hitting the Labour-run cities of Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. Campaigners are targeting Leeds council's budget meeting tomorrow.
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