Cambridgeshire

Cambridge and Peterborough pensions protests attract thousands

Police say about 4,000 people attended a public sector unions' pension protest rally in Cambridge, and up to 500 attended a rally in Peterborough.

The strike closed 138 Cambridgeshire schools and 48 in Peterborough and some hospital operations were cancelled.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the national strike a "damp squib" and maintained that it was "wrong to strike while negotiations are still going on".

However, Cambridgeshire union leader Ron Graves called it "a great success".

Unions had estimated that thousands of workers including nurses, bin collection staff, police community support officers (PCSOs), teachers and council workers would join in the protest rallies in the county.

'Untimely and irresponsible'

Police had put contingency plans in place to prepare for large marches through both Cambridge and Peterborough.

These included providing extra training and cancelling officer "rest days" to ensure sufficient staffing for the day.

Tom Woodcock, secretary of Cambridge Trades Council, described the rally on Parker's Piece in Cambridge as "a fight for everyone".

"Everything that we've fought for and everything that we've won... were won by people taking action," he said.

"We're now taking action to defend pensions. It will work if we stick at it."

The president of Peterborough Trades Union Council, Ron Graves, said: "There's been a great turnout for the Peterborough pickets.

"Now we're going back to the picket lines because we have to continue this fight. This is the beginning. It certainly isn't the end."

Conservative MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson said the government had listened to the concerns of public sector workers and had "returned with a generous offer".

He described the strike action as "totally inappropriate, untimely and irresponsible".

Unions are objecting to government plans to make their members pay more and work longer to earn their pensions.

The government says it is trying to make the pension situation fairer.

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