The North-East has lost public sector jobs at nearly five times the rate of London, the TUC says.
Austerity measures have resulted in an unequal impact on UK regions with 36,000 public sector jobs having been cut in the region since 2010.
Between 2010 and this year public sector employment in the North-East fell by 13.4 per cent – the biggest drop of any UK region – from 268,000 to 232,000 at the start of this year.
In contrast public sector employment fell by three per cent in London and by 2.5 per cent in the South-East over the same period, analysis of Office for National Statistics data revealed.
A campaign has been launched for the north of England to become a breakaway state.
A petition by the Raise The North group calls for people from the region to band together and seek independence.
It is also urging David Cameron to ‘submit to the will of the northern people’.
The separation moves comes after an earlier petition called for the north to join with an independent Scotland.
The #TakeUsWithYouScotland hashtag soon flooded Twitter. More than 40,000 people have now signed the call-to-arms.
The latest petition, posted with the #RaiseTheNorth hashtag, reads:
“There is growing consensus that the north of England should join Scotland.
“Northern England should not ask to leave one governor, only to take on another. For as long as the south has ruled, we have been subjugated and marginalised.
“But the answer is not to allow ourselves to be ruled from Scotland. The Scots may help, but they can’t do it for us.
“It’s time that the people of the north stood as one against Westminster and said ‘no more’.”
Signatory Valerie Quigley wrote:
“It is time for the north of England to get their say. They have suffered from the same democratic deficit as Scotland for many years.
“North England self-government would benefit the area and could make good neighbours and agreements cross-border with Scotland.”
On the back of the Scottish independence referendum there have been growing calls for English devolution.
Places like Greater Manchester will soon have its own directly elected mayor; control of its entire £6bn NHS budget, a national first; and greater control over housing, transport and skills.
But the Raise The North group wants more, with the whole of the north of England breaking away and gaining independence.
At the last general election the North East was one of the few areas in England where support for the Labour party, which fought against Mr Cameron’s Tory government, actually went up.
With the highest unemployment rate in the country and many people either working in the under threat public sector or relying on benefits to boost poor salaries, there have been fears the region is missing out on what has been described as the economic upturn in the country.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 May 2015
To say I am gutted at the outcome of the 2015 General Election would be an understatement.
I am lucky. I work. I don’t claim benefits, due to a small inheritance from a late relative, I don’t have to worry about money. I am relatively healthy.
But, we are all one malignant cell, one car crash, one redundancy from having to rely on the welfare state.
Although I had a bit of a twitter argument with an SNP voter this morning, I admire Scotland for coming together and ousting the tories completely. I just wish they’d voted Labour which would have reduced the tory majority.
View original post 236 more words
Would Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have been caught out in a sting apparently offering their services to a private company for cash if the salary earned by MPs’ was much higher?
> Probably. There’s no accounting for greed.
The suggestion is an unpopular one with the electorate, many of whom have endured years of pay freezes, particularly in the public sector in which the politicians are classified as working.
After the next election, an MP’s salary is set to rise 10% from £66,396 to £74,000 – the level set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) which said they did an important job and should not be paid a “miserly amount”.
When this was revealed last year it caused a bit of a meltdown inside and outside of Parliament with the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour party leaders for once united.
They argued it would be wrong when public sector pay rises were capped at 1%.
Rifkind, who said the allegations made against him were “unfounded”, has subsequently said he can’t live on his £67,000 a year MP’s salary.
However Blaydon MP, Labour’s Dave Anderson, was unsympathetic. He said:
“If you can’t live on the salary get another job. You know what you sign up for.
“If you can’t live off £67,000 a year you must be from another planet.”
Mr Anderson was equally dismissive of MPs who took on second jobs to boost their income.
“If you want another job, take another job and leave. You shouldn’t have a second job as an MP regardless.
“Me and my colleagues work so many hours I don’t know how anybody who fit another job in.”
His fellow MP Nick Brown who represents Newcastle East said:
“I agree with that. Your duty is to your constituency and the country.
“I’ve been an MP for 31 years and have never had a second job.”
As for the salary of MPs he said he did not want to be “sanctimonious” and criticise anybody who thinks it should be higher. “I think an MP’s salary level should be set independently,” he said.
As for how much a fair salary would be, Mr Brown wouldn’t be drawn on a figure just that it should “cover the cost of being an MP.”
> Before exopenses claims, I imagine.
The debate about what an MP’s salary should be has been clouded by a number of scandals over the years to the extent that when a rise is suggested most in Parliament come out in public against it firmly.
But in a secret poll of MPs, the responses were different.
Back in 2013, in a survey conducted by Ipsa, MPs suggested they deserved an £86,250 salary.
On average, Tories said their salary should be £96,740, while Lib Dems thought the right amount was £78,361 and Labour £77,322. Other parties put the figure at £75,091.
However later that year, a poll of the public revealed it thought MPs should actually get a pay cut, the average figure being £54,400. In the North East, people thought they should be paid £52,140.
Arguments for the rise included one that being an MP was an important job and salaries should be more in keeping with this, comparing it to money earned by company executives. If pay was better, we would get better MPs.
> Does anyone really believe that ? What we’d really get is richer MPs.
It would also, the argument went, entice more people from less well-off backgrounds to become interested in becoming an MP.
To counter this some have wondered how a salary that is around three times the national average would put off potential less well off candidates.
According to one commentator: “To a working class kid a salary of £65,000 a year is the equivalent of winning the lottery”.
And anyway, MPs are public servants and should be subject to the same rules as anyone else in the public sector. They do an incredibly important job – but so do lots of other people, such as nurses and the police.
Political expert Dr Martin Farr of Newcastle University said:
“The public has unreasonable expectations of politicians because they just don’t like them.
> And I wonder why that should be ?
“There needs to be a competitive salary as in comparison to parliamentarians elsewhere, MPs here aren’t played a lot nor do they get the same level of support.”
“They are frightened to be awarded a competitive salary which was why they tried to make it up in allowances in the first place.
“However in trying to avoid one problem they have created another.”
He said such was the “febrile” nature of the debate, the public generally can’t even accept the need for MPs to travel first class on trains and reclaim it on expenses.
“Yet they often do work of a confidential nature at this time so these arrangements are needed,” he said.
Dr Farr said that while it appears Straw and Rifkind might have broken no rules, they were foolish to do what they did.
However he added what did need to be sorted out was the so-called ‘Whitehall revolving door’ situation where former Ministers get jobs in the private sector
“It’s a toxic issue and in some ways MPs are in a lose-lose situation,” he said.
> For that sort of money, you’d get a lot of volunteers willing to risk that kind of lose-lose situation…
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015
> If it aint broke… break it.
The East Coast Main Line franchise made a profit of £13 million last year – with the cash returned to the Treasury.
And the financial success of the line is in stark contrast to other (privatised) rail franchises, which required millions in subsidies to keep going.
Labour said the figures exposed the foolishness of privatising the line, which is currently run by a state-owned business but is due to be managed by Virgin Trains from March.
They were published in the annual financial report of the Office of Rail Regulation, the official regulator for Britain’s railways.
The East Coast Main Line was one of only two rail franchises to make a profit for taxpayers. The other was South West Trains.
Virgin Trains, which currently runs the West Coast Main Line from London to Manchester and on to Scotland, received £221 million in subsidies.
And the most expensive franchise was the Northern Rail line, which operates in the North East, North West and Yorkshire, and received £495 million.
A separate study by consumer group Which also found the East Coast Main Line had a good record for train delays, coming sixth out of 21 franchises for the lowest number of delays.
Labour’s Shadow Rail Minister Lilian Greenwood MP said:
“These reports prove that the forthcoming East Coast sell-off is set to be a terrible blunder that puts privatisation ahead of passengers’ and taxpayers’ best interests.”
“East Coast was one of only two train operating companies that made a net contribution to the Treasury once infrastructure costs were taken in to account.”
Labour plans to allow a state-owned operator to bid for future franchises, although this would still potentially allow private operators to run franchises if they win the bidding process.
The policy not supported by some Labour MPs who argue that franchises should simply be transferred to the public sector once they expire.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said:
“We are investing record amounts in our railways as part of our long-term economic plan and passenger fares have a crucial role to play in funding these improvements, which will bring more services, more seats and modern trains.
“As we drive forward this huge investment programme, it is absolutely important that disruption to passengers is kept to a minimum. It is also important that we recognise passengers’ concerns about the cost of rail fares. This is why we have frozen them for the second year in a row.”
The Office of Rail Regulation said rail industry income from passengers in 2013/14 was £8.16 billion – a 10.8% rise compared with the figure for 2010/11 and 6.2% higher than in 2012/13.
Government funding for the railways in 2013/14 was just under £3.8 billion – a 16.4% dip on the total for 2010/11 and 8.1% down on 2012/13.
Total Government funding in 2013/14 varied from £1.88 per passenger journey in England to £7.77 per journey in Scotland and £9.18 per journey in Wales.
Government funding in 2013/14 represented 28.5% of the rail industry’s total income.
The number of passenger journeys increased by 16.6% (or by 260 million journeys) between 2010/11 and 2013/14, with the amount of freight carried rising 18.1%.
ORR chief executive Richard Price said:
“There has been substantial growth in the use of the railways in the past four years. Passengers are increasingly the main funder of the railways, and must be central to developing plans for future services and investment.
“Our report also highlights that the rail industry has been successful in keeping costs stable despite carrying significantly more passengers.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 16 Feb 2015
With a general election looming ever larger on the political horizon, the main parties are now unveiling the policies they think will secure them victory.
The economy, immigration and benefits are among the battlegrounds which they will be fighting over in the next four months.
Another is the heavily unionised public sector which has undergone swingeing cuts since the Coalition Government came to office in May 2010 and historically has been the favoured whipping boy of the Tory party.
And so when David Cameron’s party revealed plans to make it harder to call strikes in certain “core” public services if it wins the general election, it came as no surprise.
A policy along those lines, after all, was floated last year by Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster general Francis Maude.
There was also no surprise in its backing by the employers organisations the CBI and the British Chamber of Commerce, or in its universal condemnation by members of the TUC.
Yet, while certain sections of the media need no invitation to attack the public sector, and its day of action last year caused discomfort and annoyance amongst the public – not least the sight of rubbish piling high in places like Newcastle – it is still a risky strategy.
For a start, it opens the Government up to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.
After all, the present Coalition Government is made up of the Lib Dems and Tories who between them received 38% of the total number of the UK’s eligible voters – 18m out of 45.5m – and below the 40% threshold it wants to demand of the public sector it is targeting. The Tory share of this was 23%.
In her heyday , Margaret Thatcher won around 30% of the total available vote and, during the present parliament, the Tories voted down a Lib Dem motion to introduced an alternative voting scheme which arguably would have made parliament more representative of the people’s views.
Meanwhile, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny also got his calculator out to further hammer home the point. He said:
“Only 16 out of 650 elected Members of Parliament secured the support of 40% of those entitled to vote in their parliamentary constituency area election in 2010.
“Only 15 Tory MPs out of 303 secured that level of support. They had no hesitation in forming a government in 2010 without securing 40% support from the electorate.”
Another point is that, particularly in the North East, the public sector which employs many in the region, is not as hated as the Tories might think. So such a policy strategy could be a vote loser here.
Gill Hale, regional secretary of Unison in the North East, said:
“They are the anti-public sector party – you only have to see what they are doing to the NHS and what they have already done to local government.
“Industrial action is taken as a last resort, and when we’ve had to take it we’ve had very good public support. I don’t think it will be a vote winner.”
Meanwhile comments by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, in which he denounced the plans as “brutal” and “ill-conceived”, echo those of Ms Hale.
He said the Conservative proposals were “entirely ideologically-led and a brutal attempt to strangle the basic rights of working people in this country”.
Mr Cable added that a 40% threshold would be “odd”, when MPs do not have to overcome such a high hurdle to be elected.
Under the plans, a strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools would need the backing of 40% of eligible union members.
Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a simple majority of those balloted.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC says the Conservatives’ proposals would have “profound implications” for civil liberties.
They would also end a ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for action to take place and curbs on picketing.
The package of measures will feature in the party’s manifesto for May’s general election.
In explaining the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said a planned London bus strike set to take place on Tuesday had only been voted for by 16% of people entitled to take part in the ballot, and called the walk-out “ridiculous”.
“I think before a strike is allowed to go ahead it must havemuch more support from the union members and cannot be called by politicised union leaders,” he said.
But Ms O’Grady said that participation in strike ballots and other types of vote should be improved by introducing online voting, in “safe and secure balloting”.
At the moment, strikes can only be called based on the results of a postal ballot – which “don’t do the job”, Ms O’Grady added.
She said the government “continues to oppose this proposition”, although Mr McLoughlin replied he would be willing to talk “in more detail” about such proposals.
However, his partner in the Coalition Government, Mr Cable, goes further.
He said: “If there is to be trade union reform, it should be to allow electronic voting in ballots which would improve the turnout and legitimacy of polls.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the Conservative Party’s proposed changes would have a “chilling” effect, and added the way to “resolve disputes was through negotiations – not to intimidate and silence by legislation”.
Ministers have repeatedly clashed with trade unions over pay – with a 1% cap on increases in the public sector – as well as changes to pensions and retirement ages.
It was during the day of action last summer when hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in a day of strike action across the UK, that Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “time to legislate”.
But Ms Hale added:
“We already have some of the most draconian laws in Europe regarding industrial action. There are so many obstacles we have to get over.”
However, Mr McLoughlin said:
“It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for. That causes misery to millions of people; and it costs our economy too.”
He said the changes, which would be introduced in the first session of a Conservative-led Parliament, would “increase the legitimacy” of strike action held by unions.
“It is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hard-working taxpayers who rely on key public services.”
CBI deputy director general Katja Hall commented:
“Strikes should always be the result of a clear, positive decision by those balloted. The introduction of a threshold is an important – but fair – step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.”
However, the TUC has previously said imposing a minimum turnout would leave unions with “about as much power as Oliver Twist”.
Labour criticised those plans as “desperate stuff”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the proposed measures would make it virtually impossible for anyone in the public sector to go on strike and would shift the balance completely in favour of the government and employers, and away from dedicated public servants.
He said: “The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still.”
But John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “In the eyes of businesses large and small, these proposals have merit, as they would help ensure essential services and the freedom to work in the event of strike action.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 12 Jan 2015
Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris and transport unions have reacted with fury to reports that the UK’s only Government-run rail line is to be taken over by a consortium largely owned by the French state.
Mr Morris said the decision to re-privatise the East Coast line was “right-wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of passengers”.
Edinburgh East Labour MP Sheila Gilmour and the RMT and TSSA unions were also highly critical of the expected decision.
The UK Government has been anxious to return the London to Scotland East Coast main line to the private sector ever since it was taken over from National Express by the Department for Transport in 2009.
But now it is likely that this week’s announcement of a new private franchise will see the line, from next year, being run by joint bidders Eurostar and French transport company Keolis which is 70% owned by state-run French rail company SNCF.
Opponents of the move to re-privatise the East Coast line have pointed out that the public-sector run company has made big returns to the Treasury during its tenure.
Mr Morris said:
“This public-run rail franchise has generated over a billion pounds for the Treasury. If this is what a publicly-run train operating franchise can deliver, at a time when every penny counts, we should be looking at ways to bring privately run railways back into public ownership not the other way round.
“This is right wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of the service, consideration for passengers and the public finances. The public-run East Coast main line franchise has consistently been the best performing franchise when it comes to passenger and staff satisfaction, fares and profitability. “
Ms Gilmore said:
“Passengers recognise the improvements to services that East Coast have made under public ownership over the last few years. They also appreciate that at present, all profits are retained for the benefit of British passengers and taxpayers.
“But despite calls from Labour for these arrangements to continue in the long term, today we hear that East Coast is set to be privatised just before the next general election.”
She went on:
“Ironically if the contract is awarded to Keolis – which is largely owned by the French government – ticket revenue may well be reinvested in improved services. Unfortunately these will be services between places like Paris and Lyon or Marseille and Monaco, rather than Edinburgh and London.
“A future Labour government would allow a public sector operator to bid for rail contracts, so that passengers and taxpayers always get value for money.”
A win for Eurostar/Keolis would mean disappointment for the other two bidders – FirstGroup and a joint venture between Virgin Trains and transport company Stagecoach.
Before National Express pulled out of the franchise, a previous private operator – GNER – also ceased running the East Coast line after its parent company Sea Containers got into financial difficulties.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union said re-privatising the line was “ludicrous” and a “national disgrace”.
“This is pure industrial vandalism and the strong rumour that the French-state operator is in pole position to mop up this vital, strategic north/south route says it all.
“This Government is happy to have state ownership of our railways as long as it isn’t by the British state, in the interests of the British people.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA transport union, said:
“This has got nothing to do with improving services but everything to do with sheer political spite.
“Here we have the best-value franchise, which has returned £1 billion to the taxpayer over the past five years, being sold overseas because it is a public sector success story.
“Rather than allow that to continue, the Tories would rather see it in French hands. They don’t want the voters having the chance to keep it in the public sector by voting Labour in May.”
He went on:
“We are in the absurd position that the country that invented railways, and gave them to the world, is no longer considered by the Tories capable enough to run our own railway firms.
“They prefer French, German and Dutch state railways to run them instead. ‘Anyone but the Brits’ seems to be their vindictive attitude.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Nov 2014
Sunderland faces another three years of misery after it was revealed another £108million of savings will have to be made in an ‘unremitting assault and ‘attack on the poor.’
The Labour cabinet at Sunderland City Council agreed a report which will guide the budget setting process for the next financial year.
By adopting the budget planning framework 2015/16, which shows the reduction in national funding remaining at 13.16 per cent for the next financial year, cabinet members have agreed that cuts of £36.3million will have to be made.
Presenting the report, cabinet secretary Mel Speding said the cuts would mean frontline services would be cut – but pledged the council will still push forward with regeneration projects.
“The sustained level of cuts means frontline services will unavoidably be affected,” Coun Speding said, adding that: “This council continues to lobby against government proposals.”
Coun Graeme Miller added:
“This is an unremitting assault on the public sector and local authorities in general. Quite how they expect us to deliver the services the residents of the city are expecting from us I have absolutely no idea. To have lost £100million already, then to have to find another £108million, beggars belief.”
Coun John Kelly said:
“Other authorities and areas have not taken the significant cuts we have taken. Whether this is because we are a Labour-controlled authority or because we are in the North East, the Conservatives have done nothing but attack this area. If they are voted back in, they will continue to attack the poor. They will continue to dismantle, bit by bit, the way we look after the most vulnerable people.”
Commenting after the meeting, Tory group leader Lee Martin said the Labour councillors failed to see the bigger picture.
“It doesn’t gel with what’s happening in people’s lives,” Coun Martin said. “We’ve had the fastest fall in poverty rates, along with Scotland, at five per cent. This comes from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which is hardly a Conservative organisation. We have the fastest growing economy in Europe.
> So… the more resources are cut, the more poverty rates fall ? How does that work ? Well of course it doesn’t…
“There has been no commitment from Ed Miliband or the Labour Party to spend more on local government if they get in. Labour like to talk about it as a great big crusade against the North East, but they did nothing to address regeneration, employment and welfare.
“We have money going into business parks, roads, regeneration, but the difference now is that everything comes with strings attached.
“Nobody believes that we have no money. If that was the case, why would we spend £12million on a public square. Yes, the council is smaller than it used to be, but there is no commitment from them to go back to how it used to be. It’s all about where their priorities are.”
Sunderland Unison organiser Helen Metcalf said:
“From our point of view we want to protect public services as far as possible. Where there is outsourcing of services, we need to protect contracts and working conditions, and ensure we get a fair deal for our members. We have offered to work with the council. We can’t stop services being outsourced, but we want to ensure we don’t move towards zero-hour contracts and a two-tier workforce.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 10 Oct 2014
A council chief executive’s pay has rocketed 25 per cent in two years whilst its lowest paid workers have been offered two per cent, prompting calls for more scrutiny on top public sector pay.
The head of Hambleton District Council, Phillip Morton, was taken on in 2012 at £100,000 and is now earning £125,000 after management restructuring.
Previously the North Yorkshire authority had shared the chief executive role and senior management team with neighbouring Richmondshire District Council under its money-saving, shared services agreement.
But when the shared chief executive left, the two councils re-established their own management teams.
Although Mr Morton’s salary is amongst the lowest for chief executives in the North-East and North Yorkshire, the timing of the rise has been criticised, with many tax payers struggle to afford essentials with the cost of living crisis.
A Hambleton District Councillor, who this week tried to raise the issue of the £25,000 pay rise, had his attempts stifled when he tried to speak up about it in a public meeting.
Councillor Ken Billings tried to bring up the issue at the end of Tuesday’s (July 22) cabinet meeting, but was told the minutes he was referring to had already been approved earlier in the meeting – and it was against council procedure to discuss approved minutes.
The Northallerton councillor said: “If I’d been given the opportunity to speak I would have asked what the additional roles and responsibilities were in this new structure to warrant this kind of increase at a time when public sector pay is supposed to be restricted.
“When they announced there was going to be corporate management restructuring, I said I hoped this wasn’t an opportunity to give the people at the top a big pay rise.”
He added: “There’s no justification for these figures. This is only a small council, it’s not a county council or a unitary council it’s a local district council and this kind of salary increase just isn’t warranted.
“I feel the council has been led on a short lead over this. They’ve just rubber-stamped it and it’s gone through.
“Public sector pay is supposed to be constrained at the moment but executive pay seems to be exempt – you would think they didn’t work for the public sector.”
But council leader Mark Robson said Hambleton is one of the few authorities not to be cutting services. He said staff had also been offered a two per cent pay rise, which was more than the one per cent the Government recommended.
He said the chief executive pay was publicised on the council website and had been approved by full council.
He said: “It’s all part of the restructuring which was approved by council. Bear in mind before the reorganisation we had five directors and now we have three. We have saved £511,000 since the restructuring.
“Phil Morton has a background in economic development. Our economic strategy will put prosperity into the heart of the community in Hambleton and he will play a significant role in that.”
Despite Government calls for public sector pay restraint, many councils in the country are handing out huge salaries to its top earners whilst cutting services. About 61 per cent of councils in the UK paid their biggest earners more than the Prime Minister, who receives £142,500.
That includes Darlington Borough Council, whose chief executive Ada Burns receives £156,720.
Hartlepool Borough Council said it had reduced its chief executive pay band from £158,000 / £168,000 to £142,000 as part of cost-saving measures.
Unison, which represents workers in the public sector, said at a time when many tax payers and council workers were struggling to pay for essentials such as food and heating, it was unacceptable for public money to be spent on such huge salaries.
Chris Jenkinson, Unison’s regional head of local government in Yorkshire said: “It is clearly wrong for the chief executive to receive such a huge pay rise on top of what is already a very high salary.
“Our members in local government have suffered a 20 per cent reduction in their incomes over the past four years caused by central government cuts and pay freezes.
“The vast majority of those members are facing a massive struggle just to pay for the basics of life – food, shelter and ever more expensive gas and electricity costs. They were forced to take strike action to support a pay rise to help them out of this poverty trap imposed by their employers.”
Source – Northern Echo, 25 July 2014
Thousands of public sector workers went on strike in a bitter disagreement over pay and pensions, as part of the biggest day of industrial action seen in the country for years.
More than 400 schools in the region were fully or partially closed as teachers downed tools during the walk out.
Joining them were home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners, as well as firefighters, civil servants and transport workers.
Picket lines were mounted outside schools, council offices, Jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition’s public sector policies.
Nationally, around 1m workers took part in the 24-hour strike, which unions claimed was one of the biggest in the country in years.
The Cabinet Office blamed union leaders for “irresponsible” strikes.
A spokesman claimed most public sector workers had reported for work and “nearly all key public services were being delivered as usual”.
The biggest issue in dispute is pay, after ministers froze public sector salaries in 2010 and introduced a 1% cap on pay rises in 2012 which remains in place.
Thousands joined a march through Newcastle City Centre campaigning against cuts, changes to pensions, pay and work conditions.
Chants of “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard as the crowd of teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants led the procession from outside City Pool, near the Civic Centre, as part of the one-day walk-out with teachers also highlighting concerns over children’s education and firefighters raising their fears that cuts risk lives.
Among those lending their support was Blaydon MP Dave Anderson who said: “It’s a really good turn-out. I’m impressed and spirits are really high.
These people do a tremendous job day in day out and we are not looking after them properly. It’s time we did.
“It’s time we said enough is enough. They are at the end of their tether and a cry for help.”
The procession of workers, carrying banners and placards and flanked by mounted police, headed towards Northumberland Street then through the throng of shoppers onto New Bridge Street for speeches on the blue carpet area outside Laing Art Gallery.
Most were delighted at the turnout.
Shirley Ford, 50, an administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields, said: “I was also on the picket line in South Shields this morning and when you’re in a small school it’s hard to sense how everyone else is feeling so this is great to see – and the sun has come out!”
Andy Nobel, executive member for the FBU in North East which is the middle of its own industrial action following the loss of 300 firefighter posts and station closures in the wake of the Government’s austerity measures, said: “Public support during our whole dispute has been fantastic.
“When they’ve heard our arguments there hasn’t been a great deal, if any, adverse public reaction.”
A further eight days of action is expected to be announced.
One firefighter, who did not want to be named, said the chief concern of colleagues was pensions not pay.
Meanwhile, teacher Tony Dowling, 57, the members’ secretary for Gateshead NUT, said: “The main reason is the pension and pay but I’m really on strike because I care about the education of the children.
“Michael Grove is making the jobs of teachers impossible and ruining children’s education.”
Cheers greeted the speakers at the rally who included Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s deputy regional convenor for public services alliance, who called the national turn-out “the second biggest turn of action since the end of the Second World War”.
Gordon Thompson, a councillor from Newsham ward in Blyth Valley, known for his refusal to pay his Poll Tax, was among the supporters at the rally and stressed the importance of making a stand.
And a familiar face lending his support was local actor Joe Caffrey, accompanying his father, retired Unison member Joe Caffrey senior, who was standing up for service providers whose pensions are taking a hit.
The 69-year-old from Whitley Bay said: “I’ve got a pension but I’m here for the people still working, particularly the young people.”
Picket lines were also formed outside some of the region’s schools and council offices, including Newcastle’s Civic Centre and the Department for Work and Pensions, in Longbenton.
Newcastle’s Grainger Market was closed to the public for the first time in two years because of the industrial action.
Reports suggest there was around 5,000 people at today’s march.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 10 July 2014