Industrial action over public sector pensions could descend into chaos in Birmingham on Wednesday as an organised demonstration had to be cancelled due to lack of funds.
The TUC planned to march through the city centre with around 10,000 members from 27 trade unions.
But they said they had to cancel the protest because the council ramped up the costs of the road closures necessary to carry out the demonstration – to up to £10,000.
Thousands of public sector workers, including teachers, carers, binmen and nurses are staging a mass walkout across the West Midlands along with colleagues across Britain.
Now it is feared that more than 10,000 of them could descend on the city centre with no-one there to marshall or organise the protest.
Regional secretary Rob Johnston said: “Birmingham will be the only major UK city where there will not be an organised march on Wednesday because the city council has thrown up too many obstacles.
“We could not meet their unreasonable financial demands over the suspension of parking bays. So we will not be organising the march
“It is quite possible that many people will do their own thing.”
The march had been planned from Lionel Street to a rally at the NIA.
Instead the TUC is now only staging a meeting in the 5,200 seat NIA arena from 12.30pm, at which leading national union figures, including TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, will speak.
Negotiations between the TUC and council over the march have been fraught and some union activists suspect the Tory-Lib Dem council has done its utmost to stop the march against the Coalition Government pensions policy.
It is a claim denied by the council.
Council insiders suggest that the unions may be trying to provoke chaos in the city centre.
West Midlands Police has raised no objections to the TUC march, and has praised them for previous demonstrations, such as one at September’s Liberal Democrat Party Conference.
The September march, which took a longer route than the one planned, cost the TUC considerably less as it was held on a Sunday, when parking was still free in the city centre and there was not as much traffic in the city as a weekday.
A council spokesman said: “We have been in discussions with the unions for several weeks to agree a route which keeps disruption to both businesses and the public to a minimum.
“We have also discussed what traffic management restrictions would need to be introduced and explained that it is standard practice that anyone staging a march within the city must cover the cost of such measures.
“Subject an acceptable route and commitment to cover any traffic management costs, we remain willing to agree a route with unions which would allow the march to go ahead.”
• Protests are taking place across the West Midlands. At midnight on Tuesday night Unison president and nurse Eleanor Smith will lead fellow hospital workers out of Birmingham Women’s Hospital.
On Wednesday there are protests at City Hospital, Dudley Road from noon, Coronation Gardens, Dudley from 10.15am, Wolverhampton Civic Centre from 11am.