TEACHERS, council staff, firefighters and civil servants across Halton are staging a strike today.

Unions expect up to a million workers nationwide to walk out in protest over the public sector pay freeze and falling living standards.

Job centres, courts, libraries and direct links are shut and bin collections and other council services disrupted.

Some 29 schools are closed and 13 others partially shut.

Care workers, refuse collectors, cleaners, caretakers and dinner ladies are joining clerical staff in what is expected to be the UK’s biggest industrial action for three years.

Paula Barker, Halton Council’s Unison branch secretary, said: “The support for the strike is very strong.

“It is always sad that we have to resort to industrial action but it is abhorrent that the employer has failed to come to the table or enter into arbitration.

“What we are asking for is not unacceptable. We have lost 20 per cent in real terms since 2010 because of the rising cost of living.

“MPs are getting 11 per cent and government advisors a 36 per cent pay rise. That is completely unacceptable.

“Our members are extremely committed to providing public services for the most vulnerable in society yet some are literally living in work poverty with wages falling below the national minimum wage. We can’t allow this to happen.”

Pickets are being mounted outside the Municipal Building, John Briggs House, the Lowerhouse Lane depot, Runcorn Town Hall and Rutland House.

A Halton Council spokesman said: "Due to anticipated industrial action by council employees, there is likely to be disruption to council services with many buildings closed to the public.

"In the case of genuine emergencies only, please call 0151 907 8363."

Residents are advised to leave their bins out from 7am on the days following the strike, not including Saturday and Sunday.