Strike brings county services to a standstill

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SERVICES ground to a standstill across Northumberland yesterday as thousands of workers walked out on strike.

Schools were closed, hospital operations were postponed, bins went unemptied and council contact centres were shut as unions staged the largest national strike in a generation in a dispute over proposed public sector pension reforms.

From teachers to nurses, police staff to transport workers and council staff to care workers, tens of thousands took part in the day of action in Northumberland and nationally it was estimated that up to two million people walked out.

Northern TUC Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan said: “This is the largest protest by trade unions for a generation and is a clear demonstration of how strongly workers feel about the unfair and unnecessary changes to their pension schemes that the Government is attempting to impose.

“Trade unions have always sensibly and pragmatically negotiated changes to pension schemes and are willing to do so now.

“Regrettably, this Government is seeking to impose a tax on public sector workers with the sole aim of reducing the deficit, but resulting in hard-working people paying more, working longer and retiring on smaller pensions.”

In Ponteland, all schools were closed for the day.

In Morpeth, only Abbeyfields First School and Collingwood School and Media Arts College were open.

However, many schools in smaller, rural communities stayed open, such as Belsay, Cambo, Linton, Longhorsley, Tritlington and Whalton.

Hospital emergency services and fracture clinics for urgent cases ran as normal, but a number of non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments had to be rescheduled, and services such as pathology, pharmacy, radiology, physiotherapy and catering were reduced.

Patient transport services were also disrupted.

A small number of staff at Northumbria Police took part in the action, but senior officers said plans had been made for the potential industrial action and there was no disruption to services.

Morpeth and Ponteland libraries were closed and all Northumberland County Council customer service centres and information points were shut.

Bin collections were cancelled and residents who missed a collection should put their rubbish out today as teams try to clear the backlog.

However, if your bin has not been emptied by 4.45pm then it will not be collected until the scheduled time next week.

Garden waste collections will not take place until next Wednesday.

Anyone who has excess waste that won’t fit into their recycling bin should contact the council to request clear recycling sacks to put out beside the bin on the next collection day.

They can call 0845 600 6400 or email ask@northumberland.gov.uk