Anti-cuts protest march takes place in Norwich

Norwich was at the centre of a huge anti-cuts protest on Saturday afternoon as more than 1,000 people marched through the city centre.

The Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts march brought together a range of people affected by the cuts from council staff at risk of redundancy to people receiving services such as social care worried about the impact of losing services.

Setting off at noon, protesters weaved through Norwich city centre from Chapelfield Gardens along Gentleman's Walk and up St Peter's Street.

The march was also joined by students, off duty firefighters, teachers, while Labour councillors including city council leader Steve Morphew, and former Norwich MP Ian Gibson were also out in force, with Alan Waters and Green councillor Adrian Ramsay, addressing the rally at the end of the march back in Chapelfield Gardens.

Val Rogacs, UNISON National Local Government Service Group Member, said ministers and councillors making the cuts would be force to think again as they realised the strength of opposition to the controversial plans.

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'We keep being told that the cuts are fair and we are all in this together, what rubbish,' she said. 'We know who is going to be affected and it certainly isn't the bankers and financiers who put us in this mess. It's great to see so many people out here. What we have to do is build on the pressure.

'If the county council can come out and fight for RAF Marham, why can't they fight these cuts?'

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Protesters also questioned why no Norfolk MP was willing to join the march.

One protester, who did not want to be named, said it was many of the smaller cuts, which could have a huge impact.

'I am concerned about losing the lollipop ladies, because I am worried about the safety of my children when they go to school,' she said. 'There is going to be a lot of vulnerable people affected by this.

Stephanie Ash, from the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said many people with disabilities were worried that they would lose their independence if the cuts took place.

'What we are worried about is the loss of independence,' she said. 'I think that disabled people have felt that things have been moving forward and we have been able to live independent lives in our own homes. A lot of us are concerned about being institutionalised and having our independence taken away from us.'

Chris Watering, branch secretary of Norwich FBU, where 24 firefighters jobs are under threat, said it was important for everybody affected by the cuts to come together.

'It's vitally important that all affected parties stick together at this time,' he said. 'There's a lot of public sector worker who don't see why they should be paying for the mistakes of the banks.'

Alex Etches, a 20-year-old student, said: 'It's about defending the right to free education, but it's also about the public sector cuts which are going to affect all of us. The important point we are making is that these cuts do not need to happen.'

Philip Barrett, 42, from Attleborough, who is deaf and relies on support from the county council's sensory services team, said he was very worried about the proposals.

'We're really worried about what this will mean,' Mr Barrett said. 'I use the deaf centre in Norwich to meet people and have a cup of tea, and if they cut the funding there is going to be no support and equipment available. How are we going to be helped going out, and with things like paying our bils, and doctor's appointments?'

Vicky Royall, who is a Communities Support Worker, for Norfolk Deaf Connexions, said: 'If funding is cut then interpreters' jobs will go. They hope people are going to do it for nothing or people pay for it out of their personal budgets, but the problem is that money is already being used and it won't be increased.'

Jo Rust, from the Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts, said the march had demonstrated that it was many ordinary people who would be hit by the cuts.

'It's been brilliant,' she said. 'It's not just about the trade unions, we have had hundreds of service users turn out prepared to speak out about how these cuts are going to devastate their lives.

'This is going to grow into something bigger.'

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