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THURSDAY, 1st DECEMBER, 2011.
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On the picket line in a fight for pensions
Cat poisoner on prowl
By Kayleigh Williams Striking public sector workers picketed the War Memorial Hospital in Congleton and the town’s ambulance station yesterday (Wednesday) during a nationwide day of industrial action against changes to pensions.
Placard and flag-waving ickets were outside the hosital on Canal Road from first thing and there was a similar scene at the ambulance station on Manchester Road.
Most schools in the area were closed or partially closed for the day, bin collections were disrupted and libraries shut as staff downed tools as part of the national strike involving almost 30 unions.
Later in the day local council workers who had walked out joined a march at Cheshire East Council’s Municipal Buildings in Crewe and there was another protest march in Chester.
East Cheshire NHS Trust, which runs the War Memorial as well as Macclesfield Hospital, said that most services including emergency services were unaffected with some exceptions: routine and non urgent patient transport services and the GP radiology direct access walk-in service. Physiotherapy services were operating on an emergency service only.
One of the pickets at the War Memorial hospital was ancillary nurse Karen Hepworth. She was joined by nurses, physiotherapists and support staff.
Ms Hepworth said “Public service workers are being made to pay more, get less and work for longer and the argument that the NHS pension scheme is unaffordable and unsustainable, even though it brings in £26bn more in contributions than it pays out in benefits every year, is just not right.
“They (the Government) are using the money to pay off the debt
Pickets at the hospital look for support from passing motorists. (“Chronicle” photo. 4843/11).
caused by the bankers’ troubles.”
Ms Hepworth added: “Two years ago they sorted out NHS pensions and the Government said it was sustainable, but they keep moving the goalposts.
“That there is a pension pot of gold for NHS workers is a total myth.”
Women overwhelmingly represented the hospital picket line. Ms
Hepworth said: “Female workers bear the brunt of cuts like this.”
She later joined the march in Crewe.
About a dozen drivers who passed the striking hospital workers within 10 minutes beeped their horns in support.
At the ambulance station, despite an occasional heckle, most passersby cheered for the dozen ambulance station staff.
Graham Herrington, the GMB union’s shop steward at the ambulance station, said: “We’ve been told that the ambulance service is not an emergency service.
“Now they tell us we have to work till we are 67, soon to be 68. Can you imagine carrying someone down the stairs at 68? • —Turn to back page.
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Staff at a Congleton jewellers who were victims of a robbery on Friday have issued a “heartfelt thank you” to their customers, while police have said they are “extremely grateful” for the “very brave actions” of residents.
It was business as usual at Browns Jewellers in High Street Saturday, less than a day after the incident. A sign on a boarded up window said “open as usual”.
A statement issued by Browns said staff were “really touched by the concern of their customers” following the incident and that they “really appreciate the support and goodwill being offered at this traumatic time”.
Officers are still appealing for witnesses to the lunchtime incident when it is alleged a number of watches were stolen.
they couldn’t filter down Market Street.
Town centre manager Jackie MacArthur said: “The police were fantastic, working really closely with the town council and Congleton Community Projects who organised the event. The incident certainly wasn’t in our risk assessment or planned for but we managed really well.”
Meanwhile, Det Sgt Paul Williams wanted to reassure the people of Congleton that such incidents were rare. The town centre was busy with shoppers at the time and he praised those who witnessed it.
He said: “It is a very serious matter and we are extremely grateful to the residents of Congleton and their very brave actions on Friday. We will continue to seek their assistance as the investigation continues.
It didn’t put a stop to the town’s Christmas lights switch-on, which took place just hours later.
The main stage had to be relocated slightly further along High Street to keep the bottom of Moody Street clear as it was still part of a crime scene.
“We are aware of the incident witnessed by various members of the public and we are looking to speak with them at the earliest opportunity to progress with the investigation.”
He added: “We want to give reassurance that this type of incident is very rare.”
It meant the crowd watching events on the stage didn’t have as much space as normal because • —Turn to back page.
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