After months of anticipation and speculation it seemed as though much of Britain was bracing itself for Chancellor George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review on October 20th. Depending on who was doing the prognosticating, the UK was going to tame its £962bn deficit with the biggest budget cuts in 20, 30, 50 or 70 years.
Birminghambudgetcuts.blogspot.com wanted to be in good position to get local reaction to the cuts and so we set up shop in the City Centre at Urban Coffee Company. (Unbelievably accommodating, those people are!)
Andy was in charge of live blogging the Chancellor’s speech, which was a difficult task, even without the general din of espresso machines and coffee shop chatter. Listening on headphones to a live feed from the BBC, Andy summarized the information from Osborne’s speech and tweeted 140 character bulletins @brumbudgetcuts which were then automatically fed to our live blog using Cover It Live. We used the established hashtags #CSR #spendingreview #spendingcuts and #cuts, and if it was strictly local #brumcuts. It was a big day for bloggers all around and so we pulled in other live blogs and twitter feeds to round out our coverage.
A technical problem with the BBC feed let to an interesting moment when the audio cut out on Osborne’s speech and was replaced by audio from a studio where they were preparing the BBC News at One. Instead of the Chancellor, Andy had presenter Sophie Raworth in his ear, practising snippets of the upcoming newscast as well as random studio chatter along the lines of “can someone get John to fix that?”
Our website is all about a local take on the cuts story and so we sought out reaction from the local branch of UNISON, Britain’s largest public service trade union. They arranged to have a cross section of public service workers watching the CSR announcement on a large screen TV. Yes, it was a staged event, but the outrage appeared genuine, especially from the union’s head of health in the West Midlands Franco Buonaguro, who was shouting at the television as if Osborne could hear him.
We interviewed Buonaguro as well as two other spokespeople and put clips on our YouTube channel. We also shot and uploaded video of a symbolic protest walk as well as a protest concert, both on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church, Birmingham’s only remaining 18th century square.