THOUSANDS of demonstrators have rallied in London against harsh austerity measures being unveiled by the British government this week in a bid to pay off a huge deficit.
Union members and protesters waved placards overnight saying “Don’t Break Britain” and “No more cuts” a day before Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is to reveal details of the spending review.
Around 500 protesters gathered near parliament in central London and around 2000 more massed inside a conference centre where unions had organised a debate on the spending cuts.
“At worst the cuts will plunge us back into recession, and at best they will condemn us to lost years of high unemployment and growth so weak that the deficit may well stay high,” said Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
The coalition government says it wants to cut spending by STG83 billion ($133.43 billion) pounds by 2014-15, hitting government services and welfare and risking a million jobs.
“We’re worried about our jobs and about the vulnerable people we work with. I work a lot with the elderly and the cuts will mean more of them dying alone,” Margaret Thomas, a health worker with the council in Anglesey, Wales, said.
Lynda Bussley, a teacher from Slough in southern England, said the cuts could affect recent work to integrate Roma children into her area.
“The people in Whitehall (the area in London where most government offices are located) need to come down to the ground and see what it’s like for people like us,” she said.
Billy McColl, a freelance actor, said he had come to protest about cuts to arts funding.
“The theatre industry alone brings in more than a billion pounds each year, but we can’t do that without some public subsidy,” he said.
The recently elected leader of the centre-left opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, was not taking part in the demonstration despite promising about a month ago that he would join in.
The coalition says that Britain’s STG154.7 billion ($248.7 billion) deficit is a legacy of the previous Labour government, but the opposition and some economists have warned the cuts could plunge the country back into recession.