Surrey unison members protest= against the anti-trade union bill. Photo: Paul Couchman
Surrey unison members protest= against the anti-trade union bill. Photo: Paul Couchman

Paul Couchman, Secretary of Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSiS) and socialist party member

Woking Borough Council in Surrey has issued a section 114 notice to cease all ‘non-essential’ spending, with debts approaching £2.6 billion.

What does this mean for staff working for the council and for residents and service users? The council’s Lib-Dem majority are showing their true colours – promising to work with government commissioners to ‘balance the books’ by making 350 council employees vulnerable to redundancy, and closing almost every service that they do not have to provide by law.

The council has started a ‘consultation’ on which services to cut and which to make people pay for. This includes:  parks, play areas, public toilets, leisure centres, street cleaning, community meals service, community alarm service, day services and community centres. They ask: ‘Which of these services should we consider reducing or stopping funding?’ There is no option in the survey to not make cuts.

Can we stop the cuts?

Is anyone fighting back? Unfortunately an official from Unison, the trade union representing workers at the council, was quoted in the local paper saying:  “It’s difficult, really difficult. We are doing what we can to support them [staff]. The money the council has got to save makes it so clear cut. It wouldn’t be in anybody’s interest to aggravate things and start any industrial action.”

Industrial action and a mass local campaign, led by trade unions and community groups, to force the government to come up with the necessary resources, is exactly what is needed!

If the current councillors are not prepared to make a stand against the government and their enforcers they should make way for trade unionists and socialists who will.

Save Our Services in Surrey, alongside Surrey Socialist Party and the local active trade unions, will be putting forward a fighting alternative to defend our jobs and services.