Strike action set to disrupt town

HARTLEPOOL faces a day of disruption as thousands of workers get set to strike tomorrow.

The job centre, tax office, law courts and driving tests in the town could all be affected as the full extent of the public sector pension’s industrial action becomes clear.

The Mail has already revealed that more than 9,000 pupils will be missing from lessons in Hartlepool schools due to the strike.

But the action could also affect other residents throughout Hartlepool as it was revealed more than 750,000 people could strike nationwide.

The Government said “rigorous” contingency plans are in place to ensure essential services are maintained during the 24-hour walkout.

The exact number of workers taking action is unclear. But the Public and Commercial Services Union said it expected its members in job centres, tax offices, driving test centres, ports, courts and airports to strongly support the strike.

It means residents in Hartlepool could face severe disruption.

Job centre bosses said in the last five periods of industrial action that all of their offices remained open and wherever possible will remain open tomorrow.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Our top priority is to make payments to our customers and benefit claimants.

“We have proven contingency plans that enable us to prioritise our resources as needed, to ensure we can achieve our priorities throughout any strike action by staff.

“We will also maintain access to our services by telephone and wherever possible face to face.”

Court cases may also be affected by the strike action. But a spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said contingency plans are in place to prioritise delivery of the most essential services including custody and urgent family cases.

The spokesman said: “HMCTS provides essential services to the public, and our top priority is to ensure public safety.

“Our aim is to keep disruption to a minimum. Our intention is to continue to work with all staff to deliver our services to the public.”

Driving test chiefs are urging all candidates booked in for a test tomorrow to attend as usual regardless of the threat of strikes.

Rosemary Thew, chief executive of the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), said not all examiners are members of the PCS Union and those that are may still turn up for work.

Candidates who turn up to find that their test has been cancelled will not have to book a new date.

The DSA will contact them within five to 10 days.

Theory tests will not be affected and will go ahead as planned.