Woking day of action against cuts
Woking day of action against cuts

Woking needs councillors prepared to fight

Paul Couchman is secretary of Surrey Unison (personal capacity), Save Our Services in Surrey, and a Socialist Party member.

Woking Council has an annual budget of £24 million, but a debt of £1.9 billion! This is a result of Tory government austerity, and previous Tory council leaders gambling on real estate.

This was all approved by the Tory government. Now the government is demanding the current Lib-Dem council make the people of Woking pay.

The Tory government has imposed commissioners on the town. Each commissioner is paid over £1,000 per day out of council funds to oversee the destruction of local public services. The proposed 10% rise in council tax will just about cover the £3 million estimated cost of these unelected butchers.

The council has been told to cut nearly half its budget this year – it’s eye-watering. Then another 25% cut year-on-year for at least the next five years.

This means hundreds of council jobs – along with the knock-on impact on the local shops and businesses. Parts of Woking could become wastelands – bereft of services.

What is being cut?

All ‘discretionary’ services will need to be provided by someone else, or cut, primarily those needed by the most vulnerable. So-called discretionary services include: parks and green spaces; art, sport and culture; a swimming pool; public toilets; grants for things like Citizens Advice Bureau and community transport; translation services; day care and hot meal services!

What can we do?

Councillors have been told to “work at pace” to make cuts. Sadly, the government’s own report states: “Members and officers have been very cooperative”. Councillors from all the capitalist parties say that they cannot act.

Councillors should continue to provide all these desperately needed services. At the same time, they should demand the shortfall is covered by central government. This would galvanise the local population, bring the unions on board, and pressure the government to put its hand down the back of the sofa. The government should write off the vast debts run up by previous Tory councillors.

Save Our Services in Surrey, supported by Socialist Party and many local trade unionists, is lobbying the council on 8 February when it finalises its cuts budget. Come along and join us.

Also, consider standing as a candidate in May’s local elections. If we had a dozen fighting, socialist councillors prepared to make a stand, we could offer a real campaigning leadership, and push back the cuts agenda.