Strike action set to hit public services

CHRIS BISHOP Thousands of workers are expected to walk out on strike tomorrow, paralysing benefits and tax services across East Anglia. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire will be taking part in a one-day strike alongside an estimated 200,000 civil servants across the country in more than 200 government departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies.

CHRIS BISHOP

Thousands of workers are expected to walk out on strike tomorrow, paralysing benefits and tax services across East Anglia.

Members of the Public and Comm-ercial Services Union (PCS) across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire will be taking part in a one-day strike alongside an estimated 200,000 civil servants across the country in more than 200 government departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies.

Last night, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is expected to bear the brunt of the strike action, said it had “robust contingency plans in place” to ensure that benefits payments were processed.

PCS regional officer Richard Edwards said the DWP's main benefit processing centre, which covered the whole of East Anglia, would be affected, along with the Child Support Agency office in Norwich and the Inland Revenue's centre in the city.

Tomorrow had been chosen to cause maximum disruption, because it is the deadline for handing in self-assessment tax forms, he said.

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The PCS claims a Whitehall modernisation drive will see 100,000 jobs lost in the public sector, including more than 200 in Norwich.

It claims rural Jobcentres are also under threat, including those in Swaffham, Downham Market, Hunstanton and Wymondham.

The Norwich-based Office of Government Commerce has announced a 40pc jobs cut and the Norwich-based Office of Public Sector Information has also announced it is transferring work and jobs to London.

Mr Edwards said: “The impact in Norfolk is severe. More jobs are under threat across the government and people are afraid that compulsory redundancy is looming.

“They also see the services they deliver becoming less efficient and less accessible to the public they serve.

“They are ordinary people living in the communities they serve, delivering the unglamorous but essential services we all take for granted, like your driving licence, your child benefit or making sure pensioners get their entitlements.

“They also make sure that taxes are collected correctly to pay for all the other services we use such as hospitals and schools.”

Nearly two thirds of the PCS's 325,000 members backed tomorrow's national civil service-wide strike, followed by a ban on overtime.