BROUGHT TO A STANDSTILL; Schools, Health Services, Refuse Collections, Libraries, Buses and Leisure Centres Are All Set to Be Affected

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), November 26, 2011 | Go to article overview

BROUGHT TO A STANDSTILL; Schools, Health Services, Refuse Collections, Libraries, Buses and Leisure Centres Are All Set to Be Affected


Byline: Ciaran Jones; Peter Collins

TODAY we reveal the extent of the disruption facing South Wales on Wednesday, as public sector strikes threaten to bring the region to a halt.

Only one state school will remain open in Cardiff as teachers join nurses, Border Agency workers, council staff and other workers in mass 24-hour walkouts over pensions.

The stoppage means Cardiff's education system is set to grind to a halt, with Rhiwbina Primary School the only authority-maintained school in the city declaring its intent to remain open on a "partial" basis. Disruption is also expected to hit private schools.

Health services will be cut to bank holiday scheduling, with only urgent "life and limb" services being provided and "all routine, non-urgent services suspended".

A staff walkout will see Cardiff Bus reduced to a skeleton service, though the courts and emergency services have promised to maintain routines as far as possible.

A Cardiff council spokeswoman said the authority was working hard to minimise disruption.

"All schools in Cardiff will be closed as a result of strike action apart from Rhiwbina Primary school which will remain partially open," she said.

The council has so far only confirmed how the strike will affect schools, and will announce on Monday plans for other services, such as refuse collection.

But there will be widespread and severe disruption to council services across South Wales, though local authorities are holding back on putting detailed contingency plans into action until Monday.

Refuse collections are likely to be affected in the Vale of Glamorgan, but will go ahead as normal in Bridgend. However, it is likely that all authorities will operate greatly reduced services.

The vast majority of schools are expected to close, although some will partially open.

A spokesman for Bridgend council said: "The council is liaising with trade unions to ensure that any disruption to services is minimised."

A spokesman for Caerphilly council said: "There will obviously be disruption to council services. Further details will be posted on the council's website over the coming days."

A spokesman for Vale of Glamorgan Council said: "We are working to protect essential services, but we are warning that services will be affected. Schools across the Vale look set to close and services such as refuse and recycling collections are likely to be disrupted.

"Rhoose library will be open, but all other libraries will be closed.

"Council offices and facilities such as leisure centres may also be closed."

In Merthyr, leisure centres will be closed and refuse collections will be a day late.

Unions Unite and Unison are backed by, among others, teaching union NASUWT and the National Association of Head Teachers in the strike.

Geraint Davies, Wales policy official with NASUWT, said: "We have 17,500 members in Wales and as far as we are concerned all of our members will be on strike.

"The general public, parents included, are very much in support." Paul O'Shea, Unison regional secretary, said: "We have 96,000 members in Wales, the vast majority are affected by the pensions dispute."

David Hughes-Lewis, spokesman for Cardiff Retail Partnership, said he feared shops in the city would struggle to operate as workers face increased difficulty in getting to work and par-ents struggle with childcare arrangements.

"Unfortunately we just have to take it on the chin and hope there's no more. The four-week run-in to Christmas is anything between 25% and 40% of a year's business, so to lose one day is a big ask," he said.

David Rosser, Wales director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said he did not expect many parents to heed Prime Minister David Cameron's call to take their children to work, adding: "There may be odd instances but I don't think that's going to be a widespread solution. …

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