Civil servants set for fresh walk-outs in row over cuts

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Tens of thousands of workers from the two largest government departments will hold joint strikes this week in a long-running dispute over pay, pensions and jobs.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union employed by the Department for Work and Pensions at jobcentres and benefit offices will join tax workers from HM Revenue and Customs in a series of regional walkouts.

The strikes involving 135,000 civil servants form part of the union’s three-month civil service-wide campaign of industrial action against spending and other cuts and will culminate with a national walkout at the end of the month.

The union says the two departments are at the heart of the political debate about public spending cuts.

Ministers claimed yesterday that the Government has achieved savings of £10bn over the past financial year, a 25 per cent increase on their target, which they say is equivalent to nearly £600 per working household in the UK.

Measures include reducing the size of the civil service and reshaping civil service pensions, centralisation of the procurement of good and services, improving online services, raising money from the sale of empty buildings and reviewing large-scale projects like construction.

But PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These workers are the backbone of our country’s public services and do not deserve to be treated with contempt by Ministers who are refusing to even talk to us about the cuts they are imposing.

“Collecting even a fraction of the money we lose through tax dodging by wealthy individuals and organisations would make it impossible for the Government to claim it has no choice but to cut billions from the welfare budget for sick, disabled and unemployed people.”

The Government had set itself a £8bn savings target after the last general election.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: “These are popular savings which support Britain’s deficit reduction and encourage growth.

“The unprecedented £10bn savings last year shows we have defied expectations and accelerated the pace of reform.

“There can be no going back to the old, wasteful ways of doing things.

“We know there’s a long way still to go to achieve our ambitious plans for savings over the next few years. Hard-working taxpayers rightly expect their money to be spent judiciously.”

Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “There is a great deal more to do before Government is as efficient as it needs to be – that’s why in the spending round we will find another £5bn of savings as a major contribution to reducing the deficit in 2015-16.

“Cutting waste means taxpayers’ money can be focused on building a stronger economy in a fairer society.”