Extra security was drafted in but there were only about 60 protesters, half the number expected. They were unable to persuade the council from passing key elements of the savings, including closing the Westgate Hall, public toilets, increasing parking charges and cutting grants to voluntary organisations.
But there was some shift in the most contentious proposal of the evening surrounding the planned closure of the Herne Bay Museum and the Roman and Westgate Towers museums in Canterbury. Although the Tories still voted to axe £112,000 from the museum budget, they pledged there would be no closures this year and to would work with other organisations to examine ways of keeping them open without the financial burden on the local taxpayer.
The opposition Liberal Democrat group tabled six amendments to the budget, with leader Cllr Alex Perkins saying the council should put people first and insisting his proposals could be fully funded simply by making different choices. In particular, he wanted to drop longer term plans to move the Canterbury market and refurbish St George’s Street and use the money to keep open – and renovate – the Westgate Hall. But one by one, all the amendments were defeated by the majority Conservative administration. Council leader John Gilbey said:
“People know the world has changed, that money is not growing on trees and when it is short you have to make choices and take difficult decisions.”
Herne Bay Gazette, February 25th 2010