Outside Harrow Council offices in Station Road, strikers on the picket line angrily compared the hefty pay jump which MPs voted for themselves to the below inflation offer they have received.

Gary Martin, branch secretary of Harrow Unison said: “Everyone has been very sympathetic with the cause, especially when MPs are getting 11 per cent and the people that deliver the service are getting a measly one per cent. People aren't asking the world, they just want a living wage.”

GMB lead rep Pamela Belgrave said support was strong. She said: “We've been really pleased with the turn-out and it's solid. We've had a very positive response.”

Among those not offering a positive response was Conservative group leader Susan Hall, who exchanged pleasantries with some of the strikers as she entered the council offices.

She said: “I do not approve of these strikes. Residents work damn hard and the least they can expect is to have their bins collected and streets cleaned. Many of us going through financial hardship because of the disastrous effects of the previous Labour government which the coalition is trying to address.”

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She said the school closures made life difficult for parents and added: “Chaos reigns because of strikes. I sincerely hope we don't go back to the sad old days of strike after strike after strike.”

However, some school staff at the picket line said they felt forced to reluctantly take this step.

Ann Smiley is a nursery nurse at Grange Primary in Harrow, a school closed today due to industrial action. Standing with a group of teaching assistants, she said: “More and more work and pressure is put on us and we're not getting any recompense. It [industrial action] is the first time we have done this and it was a very difficult decision to make. We love our jobs. But we don't feel valued and if we don't make a stand now they will continue to take advantage of us.”

Elsewhere, firefighters from Chelsea joined the public sector rally in central London. They had earlier set up a picket line outside the Kings Road station before attending the rally, which finished at Trafalgar Square.

The union voted for industrial action because of a dispute over pensions. Chelsea FBU rep Steve Stephenson: "We had good positive support on the picket line. The public were right behind and are sympathetic to it. A lot of them are in the same boat in regards to pensions."

There were also picket lines at council offices around west London, including Hammersmith.