Public sector on the march
More than 120,000 public sector workers and police have taken part in a day of protests over pensions and pay.
Ministers were locked in a war of words with unions bosses and police representatives today as NHS workers, civil servants and police officers marched in London.
There was some dispute over the numbers taking part, with unions predicting up to 400,000 public sector workers would join the 24 hour strike, but Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude saying the actual number taking part was around 100,000.
"This is dramatically lower than union claims", he said. "Nevertheless it is very disappointing that a handful of unions insist on carrying on with futile strike action."
With thousands of off-duty police officers taking part in a rally in London in protest at Government cuts, Home Office minister Nick Herbert refused to back down in the face of police demands on spending cuts.
He said: "It's very important that tough decisions are taken to deal with the deficit, and the police service and police officers I'm afraid can't be exempted from that."
Downing Street also insisted the police should accept spending cuts. The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said: "We are having to make spending cuts across the board.
"We think the reductions in spending on the police are challenging but manageable and that the police will still have the resources they need to do the important work that they do."
But Paul McKeever, Chairman of the Police Federation hit back: "With those sort of cuts, you are going to be getting more anti-social behaviour, more crime and more disorder, and it’s inevitable, you can see it coming now, there is a perfect storm brewing here. The Government has to listen."
Earlier today, Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme her union will be talking to others about "widening the remit" for further action.
"Not only are our members having to pay more from their pay packet to contribute for a pension for which they get less, and have to work longer, they're also now entering into a third year of pay freeze with a fourth year planned," she said.
Mr Maude said: "The dedicated majority of public sector workers are working normally today and rigorous contingency plans are ensuring that nearly all key public services remain open as usual.
"We can now confirm that far fewer civil servants are on strike than in November – with around 100,000 taking part – down from 146,000 last year."