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Last week, the Planning Committee approved plans for redeveloping the Town Hall. Understandably, the story attracted lots of comments, with some wondering why the decision was taken at a time the council's budget is under pressure. The answer is: it's being done precisely because the council's budget is under pressure.

Local government funding isn't the easiest thing to get your head around, but one basic rule is there are two types of funding: the General Fund, which mostly pays for services, and capital, which can only be spent on assets. Most council's reserves are capital, spending them on services would be illegal and, of course, reserves eventually run out.

To get around this, for years the council invested capital reserves in financial products and used the interest to fund services. Unfortunately, after the crash the return on these investments nose-dived which, combined with Government cuts to council incomes, has forced greater creativity in how we invest capital.

The Town Hall project is the latest and largest part of this strategy. The old Town Hall was great for its time, but that time has passed and much of the building's plant has reached the end of its life. Simply keeping things as they are would cost taxpayers almost £20m, retaining a half-empty building we're paying full business rates on, and which is inefficient to both heat and cool.

The new Town Hall's design will make it far more energy efficient in terms of lighting, heating and cooling, and cheaper to maintain and operate. Above the Town Hall, floors of commercial A Grade office space will provide the council with a major new income stream for services, as will the new combined heat and power plant being built on the site, which will massively reduce carbon emissions across the town centre. Finally, the redevelopment will provide a new public square and many new homes, 40% affordable.

So, we have the chance to generate new money for services, reduce carbon emissions, improve the town centre's appearance and house hundreds of local people in a single project. To me, that sounds like a good deal.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

A good deal for the Town

Last week, the Planning Committee approved plans for redeveloping the Town Hall. Understandably, the story attracted lots of comments, with some wondering why the decision was taken at a time...

Jeremy Hunt recently became the longest-running Secretary of State for Health in UK history. Given that when Theresa May tried to remove him in January he not only hung on but emerged with new responsibility for social care, his talent for survival really is impressive, it's a pity his impact upon the survival of the NHS doesn't look quite so rosy.

Back in Summer 2017, Crawley's Clinical Commissioning Group, the body responsible for paying for all local residents' NHS treatment, fell into Special Measures as they were no longer able to afford the treatments people needed within the budget the Government had allocated them. At the time we were told that there was 'no clear plan', a phrase we hear far too often about the Government, as to how they would close the funding gap with suggestions that Crawley patients would face a rationing of treatment. Unfortunately, almost a year later we seem no closer to a solution.

The idea of a loved one going without life-saving treatment because the Government has decided Crawley's has already had its share of healthcare is heartbreaking, beyond that it's just morally wrong. This week, Labour announced its plans for reversing the Conservatives' slow privatisation of our NHS, bringing the service back into public ownership and its financial resources fully-focused on delivering healthcare for those who need it. The NHS can be saved, you just need a Government which believes it's worth saving.

It's often claimed that Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS, said it would survive for so long as there were those left with the faith to fight for it. We believe that healthcare isn't an optional extra, it's what makes us a decent society. We're going to go on fighting for it, and with your support we're going to win.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Special Measures

Jeremy Hunt recently became the longest-running Secretary of State for Health in UK history. Given that when Theresa May tried to remove him in January he not only hung on...

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On Saturday June 16th parents and teachers from Thomas Bennett school were joined by Labour party members, supporters and Councillors in a march organised by the Save Thomas Bennett campaign and the teachers' National Education Union.  The large group formed up at the Town Hall and marched to Queens Square on Saturday where they were addressed by speakers.  The march was accompanied by support from members of the public in the street and car drivers tooting their horns.

Speakers were compered by Glen Kelly from the NEU and included parent Emma Ford and Faye who read a moving piece written by her son Jake (who is a member of the Base at TBCC).  From TBCC teacher Alex Ramiz and college's drama teacher spoke. Graham Robson the Head of Manor Green school in Ifield gave a detailed account of the problems caused by the continuing budget cuts inflicted on local schools and Kerry Flynn from the campaign group called on parents to lobby Crawley MP Henry Smith. Cllr Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council and Labour's Parliamentary Candidate, highlighted the appalling consequences of what could happen to other schools and the town as a whole if the cuts were allowed to go through, calling upon residents to join the fight to save education in Crawley.

Save Thomas Bennett March

On Saturday June 16th parents and teachers from Thomas Bennett school were joined by Labour party members, supporters and Councillors in a march organised by the Save Thomas Bennett campaign...

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