NORTH East firefighters marched through London urging against cuts that they fear will cost lives.
About 120 men and women – including many from Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue – were part of the Fire Brigades Union’s contingent at Saturday’s TUC protest, which was observed peacefully by the vast majority of the marchers.
Union secretary Dave Turner said: “Tyne & Wear are losing up to 170 jobs and could lose four fire appliances as a result of being forced to make £13million cuts.
“These cuts will lead to a poorer service to the residents of Tyne and Wear and will inevitably lead to an increased risk to firefighter and public safety.”
People from all walks of life travelled to the capital at the weekend. Union flags and large balloons rose above the procession of people, which stretched back almost a mile-and-a-half and included thousands from the North East.
The influx was so great that it took the crowds several hours to reach their final destination of Hyde Park, where they listened to speeches from politicians including Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Gary Duncan, 40, from pressure group Sunderland Against the Cuts, and 48 fellow members left Wearside at 5am to take part.
He said: “There was a carnival atmosphere that was noisy and colourful, but trouble-free.
“The march culminated in a huge gathering in Hyde Park, where political speakers and a variety of artists addressed and entertained the crowd.”
Some marchers donned fancy dress and waved homemade placards, and were accompanied by the sounds of marching bands, playing everything from samba to traditional brass.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “We are proud of the way that we organised our march and the way that our stewards helped ensure a good-natured and friendly event.
“Of course we condemn the small numbers who came looking for violence, but we will not allow their actions away from our event to detract from our campaign.
“With the Budget a damp squib, the economy faltering and the NHS reforms becoming more unpopular each and every day, marchers will have returned home determined to step up their democratic campaign against policies that neither Government party put before the electorate at the last election.”
GMB leader Paul Kenny said the local elections on May 5 should be a referendum on the Government’s economic and social policies.
* Sunderland Against the Cuts will hold a meeting tomorrow from 7.30pm in the Royalty pub, Chester Road.
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