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It must be something about the darkness of the late autumn and winter months which makes fireworks such as suitable companion of late year celebrations. There were certainly fireworks last weekend when I attended the 49th Annual Diwali Show of Crawley's Gurjar Hindu Union, New Year Celebrations typically involve the launch of large numbers of fireworks and of course this week we have Guy Fawkes Night.

Every school child knows the origins of the celebration, of the plot to blow up both King and Parliament, of the leaked letter and Guy Fawkes' discovery just a few hours before Westminster would have been reduced to rubble. Remember, remember the fifth of November. In a year which has seen another attack on Parliament, sadly costing the lives of six people, and multiple other acts of terrorism on the UK mainland, this year's event perhaps serves as a more poignant reminder than most that while we have faced hatred and terror in the past, we're still here.

Yes, we live in challenging times, times when we feel under threat but we've been here before. The attempt on Parliament by Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators didn't come out of nowhere, it followed centuries of religiously motivated conflict between Protestants and Catholics both in England and across Europe. At home, such conflict involved some of the most gruesome tortures and executions imaginable and in Europe it produced wars on a continental scale. For those alive in England at the time this was the definitive political issue and the idea it could be resolved without the ultimate victory of one side or the other was ludicrous.

Yet, today we regularly see leaders of the world's major faiths engaged in dialogue, there is peace at last in Northern Ireland and for decades predominantly-Protestant and predominantly-Catholic countries have formed a political and economic union in Europe together. For every generation there have been issues which have seemed to define their times, to threaten their way of life, perhaps their very existence and yet 411 years on from Guy Fawkes' death Parliament still sits on the banks of the Thames.

CllrPeterLamb.jpgCllr Peter Lamb

Leader Crawley Borough Council

Living in Challenging Times

It must be something about the darkness of the late autumn and winter months which makes fireworks such as suitable companion of late year celebrations. There were certainly fireworks last...

We spend so much of our waking lives at work, it’s surprising how little we seem to discuss our employment rights and conditions.

Paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, sick pay, weekends, reasonable weekly working hours and decent pay all had to be fought for and today’s employees reap the benefits.

Yet, over recent years these rights and conditions have been put at risk, as some employers have sought to increase their profit margins straight from their employee’s pockets. Zero-hours contracts, umbrella contracts and any other number of legal loopholes have started to roll back 200 years of improvements to people’s working conditions.

A classic case of this can be seen at the Royal Mail. For over 500 years, Royal Mail was a public service, a vital part of our national infrastructure and a source of secure employment for many thousands of postal workers. Then came privatisation and, despite all of the assurances provided in the run-up to the sale, now that the service is in the hands of private investors, little-by-little the rights and conditions of postal workers are beginning to disappear.

Fortunately for postal workers, they have a union which is willing to stick up for them and the CWU is now balloting its members—many of whom live and work in our community—to decide whether or not to undertake industrial action to ensure the Royal Mail provides a pension solution for all, a full-time working week of 35 hours, an extension to the service’s current legally binding agreements and a re-designed pipeline.

Strikes can be inconvenient for customers and I know that there are those who complain about unions always pushing for a better deal for their members when their own working conditions aren’t getting any better. It’s true that alongside the general rights unions have secured us all over the years, unionised professions have tended to fare better than un-unionised professions. This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a rallying cry, if you want to retain and improve the rights past generations have handed down to us, we all need to band together to fight for them.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Proper rights at Work

We spend so much of our waking lives at work, it’s surprising how little we seem to discuss our employment rights and conditions. Paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, sick...

The UN's International Day of Persons with Disabilities takes place annually on 3rd December. The day exists to promote understanding of disability issues and mobilise action to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are properly recognised and met.

It's too easy to think that in more economically developed countries such as the UK this battle has already been won. Yet, anyone disembarking a train at Crawley Railway Station in a wheelchair is forced to change platforms via the Brighton Road level crossing. It was only in the wake of national news attention when Jeremy Corbyn helped a lady with a pram across the bridge during a visit to Crawley over the Summer that a new bridge with built-in lifts was announced.

Such barriers to those with disabilities are hidden all around us in plain sight, although thanks to the hard work of Crawley's Town Access Group they're not so great in number as they once were, and we all have a role to play in addressing them by consciously designing accessibility into every part of life in the borough.

Unfortunately, unseen barriers, while bad, are not the biggest way our country fails those with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have faced some of the harshest cuts of the Tories' time in Government. That isn't simply the opinion of an opposition politician, the Conservatives' record on disabilities has faced major criticism from the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission has highlighted that the combined impact of social security changes over the last seven years has hit households with a disabled adult and a disabled child the hardest, with cash losses of over £5,500 per year.

Now, the Government is set to scrap the Enhanced and Severe Disability Premiums as they introduce the widely-criticised Universal Credit, potentially leaving families with a disabled member even worse off. This is unacceptable and a motion I'm bringing to Crawley's Full Council outlines steps the Tories must take to avoid the policy becoming a catastrophe. Disability doesn't have to mean inequality, unless we let it.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Equal opportunities for the Disabled

The UN's International Day of Persons with Disabilities takes place annually on 3rd December. The day exists to promote understanding of disability issues and mobilise action to ensure the needs...

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