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Latest update : 2011-12-13

United Kingdom: public services for sale

In Newcastle, in the North East of England, one in three workers is a civil servant. The city has been particularly hard hit by the economic crisis and resulting cuts to public services. In this city already affected by unemployment due to the collapse of traditional industries, FRANCE 24 went to meet locals who are steeling themselves for even harder times ahead.

“It’s all gone to waste,” laments Derek as he revisits the site of his first job at a shipyard on the river Tyne. He was 16 when he left school and went in search of work. Now 39 and unemployed, he says it’s tough finding work in a region where traditional industries have collapsed.

The North East of England has long born the brunt of hard times in the country.

Now, as the British economy stagnates, the fear is that the Tyneside region is again in the firing line.

In a city centre famed for its hedonistic nightlife, some pubs and bars are closing their doors for good. “People don’t want to spend money on nights out when they need it for their bills,” says 22-year-old IT worker James.

He tells us government cuts are making his job with the local authority harder and harder. On November 30th, he joined hundreds of thousands of public sector workers in the biggest strike action in decades, as unions took to the streets against pension reform.

The government says that it has no option but to save money and attack the deficit. But in a region where one in three workers hold public sector posts, there’s a feeling ordinary people are paying for the excesses of the bankers.

For nurse and union activist Maddy, the strike is about more than just pensions. She’s angry at decades of creeping privatisation in the National Health Service. “What are we going to leave for our children?” she wonders.

France 24’s Chris Moore and Alix Le Bourdon travelled to the area around Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, to sample the atmosphere at a time of strikes, cuts and vanishing job opportunities.

By Alix LE BOURDON , Christopher MOORE

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