Present: Helen Couchman, Paul Couchman, Cheryl Wright, Dorothea Fox, Robert Evans, Steve Trafford, Tim Jones, Liz Mansfield and Matt Clarke.
Apologies received from Thelma Snelgrove, Ginny Eaton and Iain Raymond.
Treasurer's report: Thelma sent a message that we have around £650 in the bank. We have just spent some money on flyers for the fire station protest. Collection at meeting raised £55. £20 donated to the Hub for room use.
It was reported that hot meals at Staines Community Centre ended on Friday. A New SOSIS campaigner was speaking at Spelthorne Council that night on their petition against closure.
Staines Fire Station - the campaign is really gathering steam. The protest on Saturday 21st January was very well attended. Possibly 200 there - mainly local people. Good coverage in Surrey Advertiser/Get Surrey.
There was further discussion on the importance of retaining current fire and rescue cover and plans were agreed:
SOSIS will set up a stall outside the public meeting on 7th Feb to give out flyers and collect names. Volunteers needed. A number of questions have been submitted. Only questions submitted by 27 January will be accepted.
A day of action will be held in Staines on Saturday 18th February from 11am-2pm. All political parties are asked to support. We would like stalls set up all through the high street showing the unity and spread of support on this issue. We may also be able to get the Fire Brigades Union fire engine for the day. Local fire fighters will also be asked to join us. All welcome.
It was agreed to circulate Richard Walsh's address (available on public website) and encourage residents to write to him with their concerns. Walsh is a county councillor who sits on the Fire and Rescue group. His address is 23 Old Forge Crescent, Shepperton TW179BT.
UPDATE: Since the meeting, we have heard that Spelthorne Council and our MP have written an open letter condemning the proposed fire service cuts. The planned campaigning activities agreed at the SOSIS meeting must go ahead to keep up the pressure. It is having an effect. The lobby on 23 Feb should now be a major community protest against Surrey County Council's plans and Spelthorne's councillors and MP should be there protesting with us.
Council Tax increase and SOSIS position - Paul introduced the subject of the proposed 15% council tax hike and referendum. There was unanimous support for a clear position of opposing the increase and demanding that the government returns the billions it has stolen from local government since 2010. Whilst we understand that some may see no option but to vote yes to preserve public services, we cannot support this rise which will be unaffordable for many. At present it looks like all Surrey political parties except the Tories will be opposing the increase. A press release will be sent out to this effect.
SOSIS Elections Charter - the meeting unanimously agreed to re-endorse the election charter (which can be found on our website), with just a couple of factual amendments (such as changing 'ConDems' to Tories). Currently, point (3) of our charter is very relevant: 'To oppose any unaffordable increase in taxes...to offset austerity cuts'. We are also opposed to any cuts and call on councillors to refuse to make them.
All County Council candidates will be asked to endorse our charter and we will, as usual, advertise the list of supporters on our website.
Health Campaigns Together (HCT) - the meeting agreed to affiliate to HCT at a cost of £50 and to subscribe to their newsletter (100 copies per quarter at a cost of £30). We will also try to mobilise people for the #OurNHS demo in London on 4 March. Volunteers will be sought to meet people at the various main train stations in Surrey and to gather as a group at Waterloo.
Truth About Zane - Liz gave a brief update. Further evidence continues to surface and Kye and Nicole are not giving up. Fiona Dent and Andy Burnham have taken up their case.
Surrey Rangers - there is a threat to cut the number of wildlife rangers in Surrey but we do not yet know the details. We agreed to publicise these cuts and support any campaign against them.
Notes taken by Helen and typed up by Paul.