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Be Accountable Now’s the time to play your part


In just a few days’ time tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of people will descend on London for the TUC March for the Alternative.

Over 700 coaches and a fleet of charter trains will bring people to London from across Britain, and there appears to be little doubt that this will be the largest demonstration organised by the trade union movement in a generation.

The size of Saturday’s march and rally will reflect the scale of the damage inflicted on communities and individuals by the government’s programme of vicious cuts and so-called “reforms.”

Already some 226,000 council workers have lost their jobs or have been given notice of potential redundancy – this before the real impact of the government’s decision to slash nearly 30 per cent from local authority budgets is felt.

The False Economy website has estimated that more than 50,000 jobs will go in the NHS, despite government claims that health spending is protected.

Each of these job losses means poorer services for the public and increased pressures on the staff who remain. Little wonder that a recent survey found that three-quarters of public-sector workers felt morale in their workplace was average or poor.

The government’s cuts and top-down reforms have left staff demoralised, insecure and under more pressure than ever.

Beneath the statistics, cuts in public services and benefits are exacting a dreadful individual cost.

False Economy features dozens of testimonies setting out the human cost of the government’s reckless approach to deficit reduction.

One such example is “WS” from the West Midlands.

Her severely disabled daughter attends a residential school and cuts mean that she will lose her mobility allowance, a much needed lifeline which allows her a degree of independence and to learn essential social skills.

Another example is the Grange Day Centre in Shropshire, which provides support for physically disabled adults.

The only centre of its kind in the county, the Grange will close at the end of the year, despite a vigorous campaign by users and the local community.

These stories are by no means unique, which is why Saturday’s event is so important.

The March for the Alternative will be a graphic reminder to ministers that the trade union movement does not intend to stand idly by while the government takes an axe to public services built up over decades.

That’s why it’s so important that over the next few days we make every effort to ensure Saturday’s event is as big and as effective as possible.

If you’re not already planning to come, then please do everything you can to join us on Saturday.

False Economy has details of transport arrangements and there are still places left on coaches across Britain.

Each and every person who attends the march helps make the event bigger, and our case stronger.

If you are already booked to come to London, then make sure you spend the next few days encouraging friends and family to come along with you.

Speak to your neighbours and workmates about why it’s important their voice is heard on Saturday.

This march isn’t just for trade union members. It’s for anybody who cares about the impact of the government’s cuts and reforms, and it’s an event for the whole community.

We want patients to march alongside health-care workers, parents and school governors alongside teachers, the unemployed alongside public and private-sector workers, and for pensioners to march alongside students.

As well as making sure the event is as big as possible, we also need help to ensure that it is safe and secure.

Already hundreds of trade union activists and other campaigners have signed up to be route and travel stewards, but we still need more.

The March for the Alternative website sets out how you can volunteer to be a steward on the day (www.marchforthealternative.org.uk) and answers lots of practical questions about transport, access and so on.

We want the event to be one that people look back on for all the right reasons and for it to be something that people feel they can bring their children, family and friends along to – so the more trade union stewards we have the better.

Of course the sheer scale of the event is likely to pose lots of logistical headaches. If you live in London or the south-east the best advice is to stagger your arrival time and to plan your journey by public transport well in advance.

With such large numbers the march is likely to be moving off from the Embankment for at least two hours so plan to arrive a little bit later.

The rally in Hyde Park will run until around 4.30pm, so even if you arrive at the assembly point at 2pm, you will still get to Hyde Park in good time to listen to the speeches and soak up the atmosphere.

But, whatever the logistical challenges posed by such a massive event I am in no doubt that the March for the Alternative will be a fantastic success and will send a clear message to government that the British public will not stomach £81 billion of cuts which will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest, and which risk stifling economic growth and increasing unemployment.

When the coalition government was formed in May last year, Nick Clegg assured us that ministers would “put fairness at the heart of everything we do.”

Sadly, the government’s record over the last nine months has made a mockery of this promise.

Of course one march no matter how large will not be enough to persuade the government to change track.

But I am confident that the March for the Alternative will be a significant stepping stone towards winning the argument that cuts are not inevitable, and that there is a credible alternative.

Investment in jobs and public services, a progressive approach to taxation which closes tax loopholes and introduces a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions, and the development of a properly funded green investment bank, are the foundations upon which to rebuild our economy.

Britain can’t afford swingeing short-term cuts or a return to “business as usual” in the City of London.

On March 26 we will raise our voices for Jobs, Growth and Justice – join us, and play your part in what I am sure will prove to be a watershed moment for our campaign.

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