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Crime falls as red tape is cut

ALISON POOLE 1960-2011 Tributes to Herceptin campaigner: Page 5

20,000 VOTE ON PENSION STRIKE

Contingency plans drawn up to protect front line services

BY ALEX CAMPBELL

alex.campbell@thesentinel.co.uk

MORE than 20,000 public sector workers in North Staffordshire and South Cheshire were today being asked to back mass strike action. The strike action over a pensions dispute could spark the biggest walkouts in UK history. Unison members across the region are being balloted on a strike which will hit councils, the NHS and police forces. It is the first time the union has balloted its entire membership for strike action and comes amid claims Government plans will lead to bigger pensions contributions but worse pensions. The union has 9,600 members across Staffordshire’s councils, 7,000 in the North Staffordshire NHS and South Cheshire NHS, 4,500 members at Stokeon-Trent City Council, more than 3,000

in Cheshire East Council, as well as more than 2,000 working for Staffordshire and Cheshire police forces. If the strike goes ahead, each will be forced to draw up emergency contingency plans to cover striking workers or leave the public to face major disruption to front line services. Unison said the ballot follows eight months of failed negotiations, but the Gover nment’s department for Communities and Local Government today described the threat of industrial action as “completely unnecessary.” Jane Heath, Unison branch secretary for Staffordshire, said: “We are urging our members to vote yes in the ballot.

“We know they won’t make the decision to strike lightly, but they have been left with little choice.” Unison said 999 call centre operators, probation officers, nurses, social workers, teaching assistants, dinner ladies, hospital cleaners and council officers will be among those voting. Members will be asked to strike on November 30 with the prospect of further action to follow. Stoke-on-Trent branch secretary Colin Walton said: “Hopefully members will vote yes, because this is what it will take to send a statement to the Government that we are not prepared to stand by and allow them to erode our pension rights. “Women in local government get between £2,000 and £4,000 per year in pension having worked for their life. “They are not gold-plated pensions by any means. “It is something that everybody believes but is not supported by the facts.”

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Health trust sacks nurse A NURSE who was sacked by a health trust is vowing to clear his name. Representatives for the man, a nurse manager at a home for adults with learning disabilities, is now urging supporters to come forward. The action taken is said to relate to incidents from 1995 to 2010 and comes after he was suspended by Combined Healthcare Trust. See Page 3

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‘Sums don’t add up’: Page 6

Will you be supporting industrial action? Email us at letters@ thesentinel.co.uk

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Ballots will be delivered to the home addresses of members from today. Results are due on November 3 and should be announced by Unison on the same day. The Trades Union Council (TUC) is calling for unions to unite for a national day of strikes on November 30 and further ballots are likely. Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has re-trained station managers and senior officers in front line fire-fighting amid threat of industrial action by the Fire Brigades Union. The North Staffordshire TUC is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, October 12, to discuss the November 30 strikes.

MORE than 3,500 fewer crimes have been committed across Staffordshire in the past six months. Figures released by Staffordshire Police today show 33,730 crimes were committed from April to September. That compares with 37,292 offences over the same six months in 2010; a drop of almost 10 per cent. Violent crime, burglaries, robberies and car crime have also fallen across the county over the same period. The reduction comes as families battle a recession and the force has lost more than 300 officers and civilian staff since April 2010, as it looks to save £38 million over the next four years. Senior officers today attributed part of the crime reduction to cutting bureaucracy to let officers tackle crime. Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Jane Sawyers said: “We have stripped out the administrative functions behind the scenes. “Officers running local policing teams no longer have responsibility for buildings, human resources and admin and can focus on perfor mance.”

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