Star Chambers is a series of landscape photographs taken during city council meetings as they set their budgets for 2011; an ‘era of austerity’, which has seen the slashing of public spending as council’s attempt to implement some of the severest reductions in government funding in a generation. All part of the UK coalition government’s plan to deal with the huge budget deficit, estimated at £155bn. The photographs, often taken from the public gallery, document the environments in which these unique budget decisions were to be agreed across a range of political councils, from a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (Birmingham) and Liberal Democratic majority (Bristol and Newcastle) to Labour-controlled councils (Leeds, Nottingham, Manchester) and those under no overall party control (Sheffield).
While there has been much talk of the cuts, the harsh reality of how individuals will be personally affected is starting to become a reality. This year promises to be one of social and economic misery with major job losses, the closure of adult social care, libraries, sports centres, museums, care homes for the elderly, scrapping of SureStart, rubbish being collected less frequently and council flats being left un-repaired for longer. As a result, public anger was on display in most of the councils with protesters making themselves heard outside the meetings and in some cases from the public gallery. Protesters stormed the Council Chamber in Leeds and were removed from the public gallery in Bristol and Nottingham City Council, while other budget meetings were held behind closed doors, as was the case in Newcastle.
Councils photographed – Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.