Puplic services ground to a halt across Wearside yesterday as workers walked out in support of the strike. Schools, libraries, leisure centres, museums and other public buildings were shut.
Pickets were in place outside Sunderland Civic Centre.
John Kelly, secretary of Unite’s Sunderland City Council Branch, said: “Unite is proud to be taking part in strike action alongside our fellow trade unions.
“This is a fight for better public services, and for fair pay for those who work hard to deliver those services.
“Council workers have been targeted to bear the brunt of the austerity measures that have been imposed by millionaire cabinet ministers since 2010. Unite fully understand that Labour-run councils like Sunderland City Council are the scapegoats when implementing this Coalition Government’s austerity measures.
“Local government workers and the communities they deliver services to believe that local government workers should have fair pay, not poverty pay.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 11 July 2014
SOUTH TYNESIDE –
There were pickets outside South Shields Town Hall, the town’s Middlefields refuse depot and at the JobCentre in Chapter Row, and more than half of schools in the borough closed for the day.
All the borough’s libraries were also shut, and all council refuse collections were cancelled, and the crematorium on John Reid Road, South Shields, closed for the day.
Despite the widespread disruption, Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, believes the public remain generally supportive of the action – and the reasons behind it.
Horn-beeping motorists expressed support for the dozen or so trade unionists gathered outside the town’s hall’s Beach Road entrance yesterday and, also on hand to show his support was Labour councillor Ernest Gibson, Mayor of South Tyneside last year.
There were pickets from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at Harton Technology College in South Shields.
The school was closed to pupils, although members of other teaching unions and non-union staff did go into work.
COUNTY DURHAM –
Striking workers picketed outside council offices, job centres, tax offices and courts across County Durham and North Yorkshire.
Workers from government agencies including the Student Loans Company in Darlington, the Passport Office in Durham City and the HM Revenue & Customs offices in Thornaby took part in the industrial action.
In County Durham, more than 130 schools closed for the day, although only a handful of Darlington’s schools shut.
Twenty North Yorkshire schools closed and a further 50 suffered disruption.
On Teesside about 35 schools in Stockton were closed or partially-closed.
A survey commission by Unite on the eve of the strike found that 50 per cent of people in the North of England agreed that the local government workers’ call for an £1 per-hour pay rise was justified.
“The poll confirms that people across the North support workers who are fighting to end poverty pay in our local councils,” said Mike Routledge, Unite local government officer for the North-East.
Source – Northern Echo, 10 July 2014
Picket lines could be seen around the town with the most prominent outside of the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, Hartlepool.
Other’s took place outside Hartlepool Borough Council-run buildings in Church Street, and also in Wesley Square, outside the Jobcentre.
Councillor Stephen Thomas, Labour representative for the De Bruce ward, was also on the picket line to offer his support.
Coun Thomas, who works for Health Watch Hartlepool but took the day off to take part in the action, said: “I’m here to basically show my support to the strikers because I think that the way the Government is treating government sector workers is absolutely appalling.
“The one per cent pay rise they’ve had in the last four years equates to a 14 per cent cut in real terms.”
Teachers were also included in the strike with a number of Hartlepool schools closed for the day.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) also joined forces in the strike action, with crews from Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Stranton Fire Station forming a protest.
Brian Gibson, the FBU chairman for Cleveland, said: “The action we took part in is particularly important because all the unions have got together to show our strength of feeling at getting one per cent pay rises. The FBU’s argument is also with the Government over pensions.”
He added: “We’ve had great public support, all we’ve had is support.
“We’re so pleased.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 11 July 2014
Outside Middlesbrough Town Hall this morning, many office workers arriving for work crossed the picket lines.
Dawn Nicholson, Unison Area Organiser said: “It’s going well.
“Some people are crossing the picket lines but a lot of them are employed by Mouchel.
“Mouchel workers haven’t been balloted and can’t strike but many have signed our petition.”
However as one woman made her way into work she answered calls for her to strike saying: “People are still need to make a living.”
GMB union, shop steward, Brian Foulger, said: “We’re quite surprised by how many people, even management, have gone out on strike.
“Since 2010, local government have been putting money away for a rainy day. Well, it’s pouring down.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 July 2014
Bowls players fear long-established North-East clubs could be forced to close under council funding cutbacks.
Durham County Council has written to club bosses saying it is unable to sustain its current financial support for the 30 public facilities across the county – and asking local enthusiasts to take over running their own facilities “as an alternative to closure”.
But club bosses say the £5,000 they say they have been offered as a one-off payment to cover start-up costs such as buying machinery is nowhere near enough and their ageing members are unable to do the manual work needed to maintain their greens and pavilions.
Bowls is vital to keeping pensioners active and socially engaged, they argue, with the 30 clubs having hundreds of elderly members between them.
One club leader, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s terrible. We pay our rates and some of that goes to leisure.
“To ask someone in their 70s to cut greens two or three times a week, the health and safety would never have it.
“Everybody’s upset and thinking their club could fold. For the smaller clubs, there’s no way they’re going to stay open.”
The cash-strapped council is facing Government funding cuts of more than £200m and Simon Henig, its Labour leader, has repeatedly said every service must be reviewed.
The council manages around half of the bowls facilities across the county and, since the letter went out, two summits have already been held to discuss their future.
Consultation will continue until September, although clubs considering taking over running their facilities have been asked to express an interest by today (Monday, June 30).
The council hopes to reach “in principle” decisions by the end of August and have new arrangements in place by next spring.
Terry Collins, the council’s corporate director for neighbourhood services, said consultation was ongoing and no decisions had yet been made.
The authority would provide business advice and planning, Mr Collins added, and consider making start-up grants.
“Early feedback has been encouraging with many clubs receptive to the proposals as they have an understanding of the difficult financial decisions the council is having to make and also have a desire to see the clubs continue to operate.
“The solutions may include local partners or clubs working together,” he said.
Previously, the council has handed over the running of leisure centres, community centres and a golf club to volunteers.
Source – Durham Times, 30 June 2014
A £38m cuts package has been passed as a city leader says to do otherwise would be to hand council control to the Government.
Newcastle’s Nick Forbes said he had no choice but to pass the latest round of budget cuts despite calls from some protesters to pass an “illegal budget” in which services are ran into debt.
The council cuts are the latest in a three-year budget made up of a reduction in Government grants and a rise in spending pressures.
As a result, libraries are being passed on to volunteers, leisure centres face the axe and some 1,300 jobs will go, 350 of them in the next financial year.
The cuts were debated as ‘bedroom tax’ protesters called on the council to stand up to the Government. Insisting he had no choice on the budget, Mr Forbes said: “I’m not prepared to countenance futile political gestures, or handing over direct control of this council to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
“I will not apologise for behaving responsibly and taking tough decisions to balance the books.
“Doing anything different would make Newcastle a target for national disgrace, and would deal a devastating blow to the image and confidence of this city.
> The revolution will not start in Newcastle…official.
“Nor, however, am I prepared to give up the fight for our missing £38m – money which has, in the large part, been collected from the businesses in our city through business rates and redistributed to other, more affluent, parts of the country. Any business being shortchanged by the amount that we are would be – rightly so – fighting its corner in every way possible. I will not apologise for standing up for the interests of this city. For seeking to protect the people of Newcastle from this Government, which seems hellbent on attacking those least able to stand up for themselves.”
> But you’re still making all the cuts that affect least able to stand up for themselves anyway ? I could be wrong, but it does tend to look like they’re talking big and disassociating themselves from blame, then going away and initiating ConDem policies anyway.
Liberal Democrats said the figures being debated were misleading, with former council leader David Faulkner saying councils had always had to cope with cost increases.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 06 March 2014
A huge restructure of Northumbria Police will see more than 400 jobs go and police stations closed as part of ongoing measures to save a total of £104m in response to “relentless” Government funding cuts.
The force will lose 230 members of staff – some by voluntary or compulsory redundancy – and reduce its number of senior officers by 200, through ‘natural turnover’.
They will also close “expensive” police stations, and reduce the number of area commands from six to three.
The restructure plans were announced last night as it was revealed that Northumbria Police has to save an additional £46m by March 2017, having already delivered £58m of savings since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, branded the cuts “unfair” but promised to protect frontline services working in neighbourhoods throughout the region.
> What does that mean ? We still wont see the coppers we already never see, unless speeding past in a car ?
She said: “The Government cuts are relentless and unfair. They impact far more heavily on our police service than on many others. The Chief Constable and I are very committed to maintaining the number of police officers and staff working in our neighbourhoods.
“To achieve this we need to do things differently, use technology more effectively and work from different buildings that are cheaper to run.”
The proposals, which the force stress are in the early stages, will see some “outdated” police stations closed and Neighbourhood Policing Teams relocated to bases within the communities they serve in shared accommodation facilities such as leisure centres.
> A plastic plod in the front of a supermarket, strictly 9-5, and able only to refer you to the police’s website, no doubt
However, a spokeswoman for Northumbria said that no police buildings will close until suitable new locations have been found.
Mrs Baird added: “We will relocate Neighbourhood Policing Teams to bases in the local community, usually shared with other services. We are currently doing this in North Tyneside where we are proposing to have police in the White Swan Centre at Killingworth following public consultation, rather than in an outdated, expensive-to-maintain police station in Forest Hall.
“We are keen to make further savings by relocating other neighbourhood policing teams into the communities that they serve, as this is what local policing is all about. However, we guarantee no police services will be relocated until we have found accessible bases within the community for neighbourhood teams to work from and they are working well.
“I am conscious that local people are feeling the effects of the economic downturn very acutely in our region. We have managed to protect frontline numbers and deliver the savings needed without the public having to pay more.”
> You’d never guess she used to be an MP, would you ?
Another change in the way Northumbria Police operate will be the down-sizing of the current six area commands – Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland – to three.
These will cover existing local authority areas coming under North, Central and South. North will cover North Tyneside and Northumberland, Central will serve Newcastle and Gateshead and South will cover Sunderland and South Tyneside.
> With the possible closure of Sunderland’s city centre Gilbridge police station being mooted – to go with the probable closure of the city centre fire station. How long before someone decides the city doesn’t really need a hospital either ?
The force has said it has made every effort to safeguard the services the public say they value most, which is visible policing in their communities.
> Invisible policing, more like ! Otherwise only seen when there’s a football match on.
The proposed changes, which won’t see any increase in council tax, will not reduce the service to the public nor impact on the force’s ability to reduce crime and disorder, according to Northumbria Police.
> Truth is, the region is never going to be a potential Tory electoral gain (Hexham aside), so why should anyone in government really care what happens here ?
On the other hand, it’s safe Labour seats, so they don’t appear to feel the need to stand up for us either – they take it for granted that they’ll get voted back whatever happens.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place !
Perhaps, should Scotland go independant, they might consider extending the border down to the Tees…
Source – Newcastle Journal, Sunderland Echo, 09 Jan 2014