VIDEO: 'I may be young but I know what a democracy is!' Blurton teenager speaks of disappointment after being kicked out of Stoke-on-Trent City Council meeting
TEENAGER Michelle Whalley says she has been put off a life in politics after being thrown out of a council meeting.
The 16-year-old was among more than 60 residents kicked out of Thursday night's Stoke-on-Trent City Council meeting to approve the authority's £21 million cuts programme.
She has become a prominent figure in recent protests and spoke against the council's planned move to Hanley at a demonstration last Saturday.
Now Stoke-on-Trent College student Michelle has been left disillusioned by the council's actions.
Michelle, of Longton Hall Road, Blurton, said: "I may be young and not understand everything but I know what a democracy is. I have always taken an interest in politics and trying to make the world a better place to live.
"Throwing people out of the meeting just shows the council is not even considering what people think.
"They were our views and we can't even express them openly without being thrown out.
"I have always taken an interest in politics because my grandparents run a residents' association and I was considering going into it as a career."
Residents were protesting about service cuts, proposed terms and conditions reductions for council workers and the authority's decision to move its headquarters from Stoke to Hanley in a £55 million switch.
They were initially warned about their behaviour by Lord Mayor Terry Crowe after booing council leader Mohammed Pervez and heckling councillors as they tried to deliver their speeches.
The residents were ordered to leave the council chamber two hours into the meeting.
Michelle added: "I don't understand why everyone had to go when some people were keeping quiet and listening.
"The Lord Mayor should have pinpointed the ones who were being disruptive rather than take it out on all of us."
As security guards cleared the gallery there were shouts of 'you call this a democracy?' and 'this is absolutely disgusting' as the onlookers congregated outside.
Michelle's mum, 47-year-old Jeanette Whalley, said: "It was an absolute joke.
"It was the first time I had been to a council meeting but I felt so strongly about the cuts that I wanted to go along.
The bakery worker added: "I think it is wrong what the council is doing.
"We don't need a new civic centre and it is totally disgusting that the council is spending our money on it."
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Pervez said that he was disappointed the public was barred but insisted that the Lord Mayor had to keep the meeting in order.
He said: "It is unfortunate that the Lord Mayor had to take the decision to remove people from the public gallery but he did issue warnings.
"The Lord Mayor presides over the meeting and whatever he decides must be stuck to.
"He was in a very difficult position.
"I was disappointed because the atmosphere was very lively and robust during the debate and it changed as a result of the public leaving."