Nottingham

Schools shut and thousands march in pensions strike

More than 380 schools in Nottinghamshire were closed for the day due to strike action.

An estimated two million public sector workers across the UK walked out over proposed pension changes.

Thousands joined the main regional rally from Nottingham's Forest Recreation Ground to the Albert Hall, which set off at 11:30 GMT.

Nottinghamshire Police said 5,000 people had attended the rally, although organisers put the figure at 10,000.

The majority of Nottingham City Council's 101 schools closed and the county council said 286 of its 341 schools had shut.

Five of the county's libraries also closed as well as eight day centres for adults and three children's centres.

The city council said six of its libraries closed along with 14 city council-run adult day care centres.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) said it had been able to "cover the shortfalls that have arisen".

'No choice'

Ceri Vincent, a geophysicist from the British Geological Survey in Keyworth, said she felt she had no choice but to strike.

"I can't afford to strike really but I can't afford not to strike either," she said.

"I joined this organisation 11 years ago with a contract and now they want to change the pension I was told I was entitled to."

Standing on the picket line outside County Hall in Nottingham, Gail Squires, from Unison, said: "The strike today is primarily about defending our pensions but you also have to see it in the context of cuts to services, job losses and a two-year pay freeze and a further two-year cap of 1% just announced by the chancellor.

"Public sector workers are being asked to pay for the current economic crisis, not only through their jobs and through their pay but now through their pension funds."

One Nottingham resident, who stopped on the way to work but did not want to be identified, was critical of the strike. She said: "We've had to face cuts and had to face redundancy.

"My husband's had to take time off work, my mum's having chemo today, she might not be able to go to the hospital. They [the strikers] are not thinking about the bigger picture.

"The money that they are going to waste in the country today because of their strike action [is] just going to set back our economy and we should be doing everything we can to try and help our economy."

Anna Soubry, Conservative MP for Broxtowe, said public sector pensions had to move with the times.

"The reason why all pension schemes have changed is because we are living longer," she said.

The official spokesman for the prime minister said: "The strike action will achieve nothing - it would be far better to continue with the talks."

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