Notes from Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSiS) meeting in Staines on 3rd March 2011. Recorded and typed by Paul Couchman.

We had expected a smaller turnout than usual due to the long distance from other parts of Surrey but there were about a dozen activists present – almost all from the Staines and surrounding area. A number of people from the newly formed West Surrey branch of the Revolutionary Socialist Youth group also came along and were fully involved in the meeting. A key decision to advertise anti-cuts council candidates was taken, see below.

AROUND THE TABLE
There were reports around the table about cuts taking place (or planned):
*Staines Fire Station (and other Surrey stations) threatened. Night fire cover being axed.
*Cuts in colleges and universities – the University College Union (UCU) balloting for strike action.
*Threatened closure of 11 libraries
*Axing of the entire Mobile Library service
*Commissioning of Youth Services
*Closures of Childrens Centres and Surestart Centres
*Childrens Homes
*Adult Social Services – major job cuts and changes threatened in terms and conditions – UNISON balloting members around industrial action.

OFFICERS REPORTS:
CHAIR
Chris apologised for tinkering with the SOSiS website and bringing it crashing down. A replacement website has been set up and Chris is working on saving all the original information. Coach tickets for 26 March can still be bought online and the mailing list is unaffected.

 ORGANISER
Paul outlined some of the people and organisations he has been making contact with on behalf of SOSiS:
*Staines Labour Party (LP) – Paul spoke for SOSiS at the demonstration organised by the local LP to save night time fire cover at Staines Fire Station. One of the organisers was at the meeting.
*Close contact has been made with the ‘Friends’ groups at New Haw and Godalming libraries.
*A letter appeared in the local paper from the Surrey NetMums group saying they were fighting cuts to childrens centres and Surestart. Paul has made contact with them.
*MenCap (learning disability charity) have organised a series of anti-cuts roadshows and Paul is attending the Surrey event this Tuesday.
*Paul and Chris met with the leaders of Save Our Surrey Community Hospitals, which has organised big demonstrations in defence of local health services. They are open to joint activity around the NHS.

Surrey County Council Trade Union group (SCCTU) have always bee fully supportive of SOSiS and again pledged support at their last meeting – with a specific motion passed to support the Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance in their difficulties with the university management. The UCU reps said they wanted to work more closely with SOSiS around their current dispute.

Lastly, Paul was hoping to get a local NW Surrey anti-cuts group off the ground and the support and turnout at the meeting made that look very likely.

 TREASURER
Thelma was unable to make this meeting. It was reported that we have around £1,000 and that local groups and campaigns should make use of this by requesting funding for specific leaflets etc.

YOUTH AND STUDENT ORGANISER
Craig gave a full and detailed report of the amazing work and activities going on in Royal Holloway (RHUL) and in other universities and colleges in Surrey and in London.
* Lots of students turned out from RHUL and Strodes to an anti-EMA demo in January in London.
* Dan Cooper, leading anti-cuts campaigner, was elected President of NUS at RHUL.
* RHUL organised a debate on the ‘Big Society’ with a range of speakers, including from SOSiS, from the RMT and ‘False Economy’.
* RHACA (Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance) organised an occupation of a university building in London (with other * London students), setting up an anti-cuts space which was ended by bailiffs coming through skylights and dragging people out.
* It was also reported that leading anti-cuts campaigners and the RHACA have come under attack from RHUL management. SCCTU sent a message of support to the students.

REGIONAL ANTI-CUTS ASSEMBLY
It was reported that plans were under way to try to organise a regional assembly at RHUL but due to the management position this was now very unlikely. An offer has come from the UCU at University of Surrey (Guildford) to try to secure space there for an assembly after March 26th. Craig suggested that close links with the UCU at RHUL may mean pressure could still be brought to bear on the management there to allow the meeting to take place. Negotiations continue but it is our firm intention to hold a regional assembly in the near future.

 MARCH 26TH TUC DEMONSTRATION
A discussion took place and it was generally agreed that we believe this will be the biggest demonstration in the UK for decades. Coaches and trains have been booked from cities, towns and villages across the country. Every trade union is mobilising their members. UNISON in Surrey have booked four coaches from Staines, Woking, Guildford and Redhill – tickets are £2 each and selling fast. Craig informed the meeting that a student feeder march was planned on the day.

 MAY COUNCIL ELECTIONS
A discussion was started by Paul and Chris and a motion moved by Paul regarding how SOSiS can intervene in the May borough council elections without supporting any one political party. It was agreed by everyone that SOSiS needed to have a position and be able to inform the public and trade unionists regarding the anti-cuts position of candidates.

Paul moved the following motion, which was agreed unanimously after discussion:
That SOSiS puts aside a space on our website to list any and all candidates for council office who agree to sign up to the following pledge:
“If elected, I pledge to vote against ALL cuts in jobs, services, pay, terms and conditions. I will work with the trade unions and anti-cuts campaigners to defend all public services”.
That SOSiS circulates this message widely and invites candidates of all political parties and affiliations [except far right, racist and fascist parties] to contact us and sign our pledge.
This motion is completely in line with our founding principles and does not infer SOSiS support of any individual candidate or party.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Paul announced that there will be a lobby of the Labour Party Local Government Conference in London this Saturday 5th March, organised by the NSSN, the RMT and other trade unions – calling on Labour Councils not to impose cuts.

NEXT MEETING
It was agreed that we should aim to hold the next meeting on 24th March in Redhill and invite a speaker and use the meeting as a rally prior to the big TUC demo. We will also firm up and communicate any important information at that meeting regarding coaches, stewarding etc. Chris will make contact with the Redhill group to organise a venue and consider speaker/s. To make it more possible for people from this end of Surrey to attend, lifts can be arranged and/or a minibus booked. Activists who wish to go but need support to get there should contact us.

STAINES AND NORTH WEST SURREY ANTI-CUTS ALLIANCE
The majority of those attending were from the local area and, after the main meeting, all agreed to be part of a local group affiliated to SOSiS. We now have a solid group in Redhill and fledgling groups in Woking, Guildford and Staines.

There will be a SOSiS street stall on Saturday 19th March from 11am till 2pm in Staines to advertise the TUC demonstration and recruit new local activists. More details will be sent out nearer the day.

For Updates, news and events visit www.saveourservic.es or join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page.  Email: guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

REMEMBER: There are Subsidised coaches to the TUC National Demonstration in London, March 26th. All are welcome. Only £2.00 RTN. Coaches are leaving from Staines, Guildford, Redhill and Woking. Buy a ticket online using a secure paypal at www.saveourservic.es or email www.guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk

 

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