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Union rally held at Tory conference


TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said austerity is having a devastating effect on communities

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said austerity is having a devastating effect on communities

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said austerity is having a devastating effect on communities

Thousands of people will join a union protest against austerity cuts, especially in the NHS, on the opening day of the Conservative Party conference today.

Up to 40,000 people are expected to join a march and rally in Manchester which will be addressed by union leaders alongside appearances by musicians.

The protest will highlight the impact of Government policies on jobs and spending across the health service, as well as the "rapid sell-off" of the most lucrative parts of the NHS to private healthcare companies.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The march and rally will allow thousands of ordinary people to show the Government exactly what they think of their policies.

"Austerity is having a devastating effect on our communities and services, with 21,000 NHS jobs lost over the last three months alone. The NHS is one of Britain's finest achievements and we will not allow ministers to destroy, through cuts and privatisation, what has taken generations to build."

TUC North West regional secretary Lynn Collins added: "Our NHS is under attack and we want to send the strongest message to the Conservatives that we will not stand by and let them sell-off our national treasure."

Leading musicians are helping to organise the event in signs of a renewed link between music and politics.

Manchester musician John Robb will compere a rally, while Liverpool band the Farm, and 15-year-old John Lennon McCullagh will sing.

The youngster has been signed to Creation boss Alan McGee's new record label, 359.

McGee, who discovered Oasis, said he wanted to support the protest because of his anger over the Government's austerity cuts.

In an interview with the Press Association, he accused the coalition of seeking to "destroy" welfare benefits.

"The people this is affecting are kids. A decade ago young people could leave school, find a decent job, get a flat and earn enough money to live on. That is not happening now.

"We are in danger of ending up with a generation of people facing homelessness and on drugs, especially if they don't get on with their parents so have to leave home.

"Unless you know someone these days, you are not going to find work because Britain is not investing in jobs," he said.

Chief Superintendent John O'Hare, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "Along with Manchester City Council, we have been working closely with the organisers to facilitate this demonstration while minimising disruption to people working, visiting or living in the city centre.

"The event poses a number of challenges to our city and we have had to put in place a significant policing operation to deal with these. It is important to remember that there is a major security operation already in place to deliver a safe Conservative Party conference.

"Organisers of the demonstration have been very open and co-operative with us and it is clear that their intention is to demonstrate peacefully, as is their democratic right.

"The vast majority of people attending this demonstration do so in the spirit of their cause but anyone wishing to use this event as a cover for disorder will be identified early and swiftly dealt with by the police."

Ms O'Grady will tell the rally: "The NHS faces the gravest crisis in its history. We are seeing privatisation on an unthinkable scale as core services are hived off to the lowest bidder, budgets are flatlining, and huge efficiency savings are being demanded by ministers - all at a time of record patient demand.

"After promising there would be no top-down re-organisation, the Government is wasting billions implementing reforms nobody wants and nobody voted for.

"GP commissioning groups are being forced to tender out new contracts to the private sector after being given assurances by ministers that they wouldn't have to.

"And companies like Circle Healthcare, which has donated £1.4 million to the Conservative Party, are being rewarded with billions in taxpayers' money to run key services.

"Ministers don't seem interested in listening to the concerns of doctors and nurses because they would rather keep their friends in the private healthcare industry happy.

"Nor does the Government seem interested in protecting frontline services. The Prime Minister said NHS spending would be protected, but we're seeing increased rationing of treatments, rising waiting lists, a growing number of closures and accident and emergency wards in disarray.

"In the last three months alone 21,000 NHS employees have lost their jobs, and those nurses, doctors and other health professionals that remain feel that no-one is listening to them and that they are being asked to achieve more with less. As a result morale is at rock bottom.

"This is no way to run our most important, most cherished national institution. Those who sacrificed so much during World War Two to build a better future for themselves and their families didn't want this.

"High-quality healthcare should be available for all according to need, not the ability to pay."

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, will tell the rally: "David Cameron has lied about the NHS and continues to hoodwink us about the scale and pace of NHS privatisation.

"In 2010, he told the people of Britain that the NHS was safe in the Tories' hands.

"But since then, he has forced through a £3 billion upheaval - without a peep about this in his manifesto, nor a shred of evidence that it would deliver better care.

"In the first two years of his government alone, we lost more than 5,000 nurses.

"Big business has taken billions in new private contracts - and now we have the spectre of NHS funds used to fund shareholder profits - and not treating patients.

"In addition to the £20 billion of savings demanded from the NHS during the course of this parliament, there was £2.5 billion worth of private contracts dished out in the four months from April this year - this figure is set to explode in the coming months.

"Our ambulance service is now under threat, pathology services are being sold off, queues in most A&E departments are amounting to 12 hours, with sick people being treated in corridors.

"Hospital after hospital is chronically under-staffed, with wards shutting - as winter looms we are heading for the biggest crisis to face the NHS for a generation."

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