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Council signs off £2 million in cuts as protesters warn ‘apologies are not enough’

Mansfield District Council signed off on £2.2m cuts over the next year as protesters outside the building urged them to fight for residents.

Anger before and after the full council meeting on Tuesday (January 23) was directed at a decade of shrinking government settlements, with the Elected Mayor saying there was “no meat left on the bone”.

Markets, events, public toilets, charity grants and culture all saw their budgets reduced, while council tax will rise by 2.99 per cent and social housing rent 7.99 per cent.

The decisions will also likely lead to the loss of 30 to 40 jobs.

Denise Tooley-Okonkwo, a Trade Unions and Socialist Coalition member, warned: “The cuts would be devastating to our community – and these are only the first.

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“We’re here to tell councillors that we’ve had enough and they need to fight back.

“It’s not good enough to keep apologising. The council needs to stand up to the Tories and fight for our standards of living.”

The Warsop toilets – originally set for closure – are now likely to be kept open, although discussions are still going on around those at Mansfield Woodhouse.

The council estimates it will have a £5.4m budget gap over the next three financial years, which will need to be closed through savings.

Elected Mayor Andy Abrahams (Lab) said that a “decade of austerity” had forced the council to make these difficult choices.

“The government’s failed economic policies has resulted in the longest and deepest cost of living crisis with record increases in inflation and energy prices. All this against a backdrop of receiving 60 per cent less funding from central government since 2010.

“The least that Conservative councillors can do is write to their Prime Minister to ask for more funding. There is no meat left on the bone.”

He also blamed the previous Mansfield Independents administration for not raising council tax for years and buying a costly block of flats in London as an investment.

The Conservative group submitted an amendment to keep Mansfield Woodhouse’s public toilets open and maintain charity grants through cuts to councillors’ allowances and committees.

Councillor Andre Camilleri (Con) said: “I acknowledge the difficult choices made by the Mayor but we must confront the consequences on our most at-risk citizens.

“The Samaritans and the Citizens Advice Bureau are a lifeline to those in desperate need. A lack of public toilets would restrict outings for many elderly or disabled people, and also affect outdoor workers and the homeless.”

Councillor Sinead Anderson (Con) said residents were being “asked to pay more for less”.

However, the Labour group said the budget was the best that could be achieved, and that the Conservatives should put blame on their own party.

Deputy leader Councillor Craig Whitby (Lab) said: “These measures are difficult but are essential for the financial health of the council.

“The situation here isn’t unique – the system for funding local government is broken, both literally and figuratively.”

The amendment was voted down, and the budget was passed by Labour and some independent members.

The culture budget would be cut by £132,000, including reduced opening hours at Mansfield Museum, and the events budget would be slashed by £99,000.

On Monday (January 22) Mansfield’s Conservative MP Ben Bradley, also leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said he felt Mansfield District Council could have better managed its finances.

“I can’t help but feel that when we talked about money being spent on flats it (the district council) owns in London, that money could have been managed better and spent better,” he said.

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