The mood of the protest was angry and determined. Firefighters, local residents, anti-cuts campaigners and their families all gathered outside Staines Fire Station to shout a loud NO! to the County Council. Over 200 people had come with just a couple of weeks notice to this demo. Councillor Robert Evans had called the protest. Robert, a Lib Dem councillor, Paul Couchman of Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSIS) and Jez, a local firefighter, spoke about the proposals to cut our fire safety cover even further than previously threatened.
According to the Surrey firefighters:
- The Staines fire engine is the busiest engine in the whole of Surrey.
- Staines firefighters alone have saved the lives of five people this year.
- Worst record of fire deaths in Surrey.
- Highest concentration of tower blocks.
- The busiest roads and most congested bridges connecting to the rest of Surrey.
- Some of the worst pockets of deprivation.
- The most dangerous stretch of river.
- The highest concentration of vulnerable adults who cannot self-rescue.
- The busiest airport in Europe.
- A new waste incinerator being built and; It borders the West London Oil Storage Depot (bigger than Bunsfield)..
SCC have also recently announced plans to raise council tax by a whopping 15% - will they stop the cuts and closures if this goes through? Of course not. This will just be a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. They are determined to make cuts and will use the referendum as an excuse when it returns a no vote.
Save Our Services in Surrey does not accept the need for cuts in public services or massive rates increases.
Paul Couchman said:
"The wealth of the richest 1% of the population has grown whilst the rest of us suffer wage cuts, unstable employment conditions and austerity. This government, and their representatives on local councils, have made cut after cut in public services - in health, education and social care amongst others. People will not take it any more. The trade unions, alongside residents associations and community groups, need to draw a line in the sand and say: no more cuts.
"If the Tories in Spelthorne borough and in Surrey County Council get away with axing our fire service here in Spelthorne then they will come back for more, and more ... until there are no publicly owned and democratically run public services left. We have no choice but to fight."
The fact that Spelthorne has once again been targetted for deeper cuts than the rest of Surrey was not lost on the audience.
Again, local firefighters explained:
"Under the current proposals Spelthorne will only have one of the 35 Surrey appliances. The average for each of the eleven boroughs will be three. To put it another way, Spelthorne residents will be paying for fire cover across Surrey when they will only have a single engine. The generally less well-off borough subsidising the more wealthy areas yet again".
The protest pledged to build the opposition to the proposed immediate closure of Staines station and to campaign vigorously for Spelthorne to continue to have two full-time appliances.
It was agreed to vuild for the public meeting on 7th Feb and to make the lobby of Spelthorne council in Knowle Green on 23 February at 6.30pm the biggest protest ever seen in Staines. SOSIS and the FBU, along with local firefighters, other trade unions and local residents associations will be building for this over the next few weeks, as well as promoting the petition on the SCC website and encouraging people to individually lobby their local councillors.
Anyone who would like to help distribute flyers or get involved with SOSIS should visit www.sosis.org.uk or email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save Our Services in Surrey and Staines Socialist Party