Norfolk

Norfolk children's centres: Police called to protest at meeting

Great Yarmouth Borough Council Image copyright Google
Image caption Great Yarmouth Town Hall attracted protestors to a full borough council meeting on Thursday evening

Police were called to a council meeting after campaigners against children's centre closures shouted and refused to leave the public gallery.

Campaigners were at Great Yarmouth Town Hall to back a motion by the Labour opposition to cancel the closure of six centres in the borough.

When the motion was voted down, some protesters shouted "shame on you".

The borough council's Tory leader Graham Plant said the protesters' behaviour was "unacceptable".

Five Labour members had called for the local authority to write to Norfolk County Council, which proposes to close 46 out of its 53 children's centres. across the county.

The motion was lost by 15 votes to 19 at Thursday's meeting, prompting dismayed reactions from the protesters.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Funding for Norfolk's children's centres has been cut by half, but the council denies that this is the reason for the closures

Borough Mayor Mary Coleman issued several warnings to the protestors that they were disturbing proceedings, and then ordered the public gallery to be cleared.

She halted the meeting temporarily and called police when "a minority" refused to budge.

After the meeting, Labour's Mike Smith-Clare said: "I do not want what happened to detract from the message - and that is our children's centres should not close.

"This message was made loud and clear."

'Rowdy'

One protestor told BBC Radio Norfolk: "I'm disgusted that they [councillors] couldn't find it in themselves to feel a bit of compassion towards the people they are supposed to represent.

"The people who were making a lot of noise obviously felt very emotional about the subject."

Mr Plant said it was "unfortunate it got a bit rowdy" and he did not support the motion because it went against a public consultation, which is running until 12 November.

In February, the county council announced the children's centre budget for 2019 had been cut from £10m to £5m.

A Norfolk Police spokesman said he believed the protestors left when asked.

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