Strike action closes more than 200 schools in Cumbria

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Media captionCouncil workers, teachers and hospital staff joined the stoppage

More than 200 schools closed in Cumbria as public sector workers walked out in a row over pensions.

Picket lines were set up with rallies taking place in Whitehaven, Carlisle and Barrow.

Unions said the government's pension plans were unfair and would see members working longer and contributing more before collecting their pension.

The government said it needed to make changes to pensions because people were living longer.

In Cumbria, teachers, nurses, care workers and civil servants were among those involved in Wednesday's action.

Picket lines were set up from the early hours, including at council buildings and hospitals.

'Unfair and unrealistic'

Cumbria County Council said 220 schools in the county were closed with 67 fully open.

Twelve of the council's disability and mental health day services were closed and at least 20 libraries were shut.

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, in a speech to the think tank Policy Exchange, said public sector unions wanted "to provide a platform for confrontation just when we all need to pull together".

He said it was "unfair and unrealistic" to expect taxpayers to foot the increasing public sector pensions bill.

Some disruption

Rallies, marches and picket lines were held across the county.

In Carlisle about 1,000 people marched through the streets of the city waving banners and hooting horns.

Outside Kendal police station, Clive Davidson, a civilian administration manager, was striking for the first time in 40 years. He said: "A lot of us are facing redundancies and our pensions are going to be affected. People are going to have to work until they are 67."

Ray Simpson, 56, Cumbria branch secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "I think this is the one issue in all my years of teaching, 32 years, that seems to have united the membership as a whole."

Jim Savege, Cumbria County Council's corporate director for organisational development, said: "There has clearly been some disruption for the public today, particularly because of the relatively high proportion of school closures and the knock-on impacts that can have for childcare.

"But we have all worked hard and planned ahead to manage the impact of the strikes on the public."

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