World News‎ > ‎

Britons protest in London over govt cuts

posted 26 Mar 2011, 09:10 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 26 Mar 2011, 09:12 ]

Tens of thousands of Britons opposed to government austerity cuts join the biggest rally in the capital since protests against war in Iraq in 2003.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (MARCH 26, 2011) REUTERS - Union leaders say more than 200,000 Britons angry at deep public spending cuts, rising unemployment, tax rises and pension reforms joined the demonstration in London on Saturday (March 26).

Police fear simmering resentment could lead to a repeat of violence seen last December when student protests against higher university tuition fees erupted into the capital's worst rioting in decades.

Some 4,500 police officers were on duty along with hundreds of union-trained stewards.

The Conservative-led coalition is pushing ahead with a tough debt reduction programme to virtually eliminate a budget deficit, currently running at about 10 percent of GDP, by 2015 to protect Britain's triple-A credit rating.

Unions and the opposition Labour Party say the measures go too far, too fast and are bringing misery to millions of Britons with unemployment at its highest level since 1994.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the umbrella labour organisation, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said the march aimed to send a "loud and clear" message that there really is an alternative to cuts.

"Today's about getting across the case loud and clear that there really is an alternative to the policies of austerity that the government are forcing on the country and these savage cuts that the government are forcing on the country," Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls told media at the scene.

Demonstrators echoed those sentiments, saying the measures went too far, too fast.

"They're too quick, too fast. All of these people here are local government workers and any one of these could be out of a job next week," said one protester.

"They're cutting everything way too fast and way too deeply and it's affecting everybody in the country," added another.

Many European countries have seen mass protests in recent months as governments slash public spending to try to help their economies to recover from the global financial crisis.

The government says it is cleaning up a mess left by the previous Labour government and that failure to act would leave Britain exposed to market turmoil. The Labour Party says it would reduce the deficit at a slower pace, aiming to halve it by the time of the next election in 2015.