Paul Couchman, Staines Socialist Party

Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSiS) held a People’s Budget conference – with representatives from eight unions – on the morning of 24 September. We devoted the afternoon to a strike rally.

The campaign has received lots of submissions to go in our People’s Budget. Our conference debated those submissions, ready to go in our manifesto for any elections in Surrey. And the unions and members in the Save Our Services campaign will be able to check our People’s Budget too.

There was unanimous support that this was a no-cuts, needs-led budget. Our candidates and councillors will vote and campaign for these policies, regardless of council budget constraints. Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates will support the manifesto, and you should consider standing with us.

Save Our Services argues for prudential borrowing and the use of reserves to start implementing this manifesto immediately, while building our campaign among workers and residents to force the government to bridge any shortfall.

The agreed budget includes reversing all cuts, ending privatisation, bringing essential services back into council hands, building council houses, protecting the green belt, supporting council trade unions and other unions in struggle and much, much more.

In the afternoon, Helen Couchman – Unison national convener for Dimensions charity, and a member of the Socialist Party – chaired the strike rally.

Luke Elgar, Communication Workers Union (CWU) executive, said this was a fight to the end against a vicious, profit-hungry Royal Mail employer, determined to transform into just another Amazon-type delivery company.

I spoke from Surrey Unison to say how the tide is turning in favour of workers making a stand. For the first time ever, Unison is part of a motion to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) calling for coordinated strike action.

Tamsin Honeybourne, National Education Union (NEU), and Sade Afolabi, teachers’ union NASUWT, spoke about their national industrial action ballots. Stuart Fegan, GMB, told us two weeks of strike action at Amey Waste Management company resulted in a vastly improved pay offer.

Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), said that the government has shown that it can spend money when it is forced to, so we all need to strike together.

Closing the day, I said:  “Workers have two main arenas in which they will fight back – the industrial (through their trade unions and industrial action) and the political (at the ballot box). This event offers the working class of Surrey the opportunity and the means to do both.”

We asked everyone to attend the NSSN pre-TUC Action Summit on Sunday 16 October in Brighton and on Zoom. We will look at a cost-of-living protest in the new Chancellor’s constituency of Spelthorne in Surrey – watch this space.