Official Launch Meeting: Save Our Services in Surrey
The 14th October saw the official launch of the Save Our Services in Surrey campaign. 80 people came together to discuss the governments planned public service cuts and plan a local response. There were delegates from a dozen local union branches as well as several community and campaign groups.
Apart from the many trade union branches that sent delegates, there were delegates from Surrey County Council Trade Unions (SCCTU), Royal Holloway University Anti Cuts Alliance, Peace & Justice Coalition, Peace Party, Guildford Transition Towns and Redhill Coalition Against The Cuts.
Save Our Services in Surrey has already been active prior to the official launch. It has successfully led campaigns that have saved Shortwood School and Ashford College and lobbied the council earlier in the year to oppose fire service cuts.
The meeting took the form of an open discussion rather than having a panel of speakers.
Dan, from the Royal Holloway University Anti Cuts Alliance told the meeting that the coming marketisation of education and public services will have dire consequences for the young and the vulnerable in society. The Royal Holloway NUS president recently stated that the two successful anti-cuts meetings on campus gave him the mandate to take action not just over education cuts but public spending cuts in general. The NUS at Holloway was fully backing the Anti-Cuts Alliance and its public meeting arranged for the 21st, October.
A Surrey County Council union official spoke about the Council’s “Public Value Review” whose conclusions are due out next week. She told the meting; “We must fight for every job, and if we save just one job it will be a victory. We must work with many other communities and groups, and be proactive if we are to be successful”.
An official from the UCU spoke to the meeting, she said “the managers at the University of Surrey pretend they don’t know what’s going to happen about the cuts in the University. Everyone knows there are cuts coming, but the management are not being up-front about them”.
Another local union official spoke about the national debt that the government keeps telling us about. She said “yes, there is a huge debt at 48% of GDP, but this is nothing like the national debt following the war. For much of the 20th Century the national debt was running at over 100% of GDP- and for the ten years after World War Two the National debt was over 200%- peaking at 250%. During this time the country was able to build schools, roads, undertake a massive house building programme and create the welfare state”. These cuts she concluded “were political and not economically motivated”.A union official from the Royal Surrey Hospital Trust told the meeting that management was restricting union activity and its campaigns over closures. He spoke of eighty recent redundancies with another eighty planned for the near future.
A student told the meeting that we were in this position because of the banks. “It’s not my fault” he said, “It’s not my mistake”.
A Green Party councillor and member of the Redhill Coalition Against The Cuts related his experiences of council meetings where “alternative service delivery” was being discussed. “Council meetings are always about the best ways to make cuts, not if the cuts should be made”. The council at Redhill plans to cut 20% of its workforce.
A Surrey unison member said to the meeting; “councillors don’t use services themselves because they tend to be better off. They don’t really know what it means to have their services cut. They often think council services are luxuries. 52 libraries are under threat in Surrey. The number of Social Workers and their support staff are being cut and the Council’s adult service is being slashed. Staff are already exhausted with case loads exceeding 100 cases. Managers should come out of their offices and see what is happening on the ground”.
Chris Leary, from Save Our Services in Surrey urged everyone to join SOSiS and create a central campaigning hub. “We can support individual campaigns by picketing and putting pressure on councillors and Council managers. We need to be united, proactive, and demand the services we need”.Before the meeting closed there was a unanimous vote to adopt the draft constitution and three officers were elected. Chair, Co-ordinator, and Outreach/Campaign Organiser.
Two further meetings were announced:
Holloway University Anti Cuts Alliance meeting in Egham, 21st October.
A student meeting against the cuts at the University Of Surrey 26th October.
Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts
Save Our Services in Surrey
Redhill Coalition Against The Cuts
Royal Holloway University Anti Cuts Alliance
Anti cuts coalition in Sussex and Surrey Public meeting