Thousands to march against UK austerity

Posted at 11:51 AM, Oct 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-20 11:51:13-04

By the CNN Wire Staff

LONDON (CNN) – Protesters are expected to march through London on Saturday to voice their opposition to austerity measures imposed by the UK government, union leaders said.

The demonstrators will make their way through central London before joining a mass rally in Hyde Park.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband, of the Labour Party, is among the speakers expected address the crowds.

Marches are also taking place in the Scottish city of Glasgow and Belfast in Northern Ireland.

The Trades Union Congress, a federation that includes most British unions, said it expected tens of thousands of union members to join the protest, dubbed A Future That Works, in London.

“Austerity has failed — the economy has not grown for two years, unemployment and youth unemployment have risen, living standards have been squeezed and borrowing is not coming down,” a statement on the TUC website said.

“We need an alternative approach — one that puts decent work and growth at its heart and takes a long-term approach to rebuilding the British economy after the crash.”

The TUC wants the coalition government, under Prime Minister David Cameron, to abandon its program of cuts to public services and austerity measures in favor of investment in infrastructure, new industries and training.

Without a focus on growth and job creation, the nation faces a “lost decade” of decline, it warns.

Critics of the government say its cuts are targeted at those who are most vulnerable, including the sick and disabled, and accuse it of helping the wealthy at the expense of the ordinary family.

Speaking at his Conservative Party’s national conference earlier this month, Cameron defended the government’s austerity program, saying “painful decisions” had to be made to bring down the deficit.

He acknowledged, though, that the path ahead was not easy. “Here’s the truth,” he said. “The damage was worse than we thought, and it’s taking longer than we hoped.”

Chancellor George Osborne said last month the economy was “healing” and that the government’s strategy was delivering results “despite strong headwinds.”

“But the scale of the challenge is so great that there are no quick fixes or easy routes to recovery,” he told business leaders in Scotland. “The debts built up in our economy over the last decade will take time to unwind.”

Both Osborne and Cameron have pointed to the eurozone crisis as a factor in the current economic situation, saying it has cast a shadow over the British economy.

Britain is one of a number of European nations, Spain and Italy among them, laboring under a large burden of public debt in the wake of the global economic downturn.

The UK unemployment rate fell slightly to 7.9% for the period from June to August this year, the Office for National Statistics said this week. However, many young people are without work.