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Running from danger is a natural part of our survival instinct. Yet, for those dangers to be overcome, some men and women must run into the flames. Literally. The men and women of our Fire and Rescue Service are the reason we know when the worst comes to pass and we find ourselves and our property engulfed in flame, or we or a loved one is involved in a car accident, we know help is on the way.

Several years ago, West Sussex County Council cut Crawley's third fire engine and all its retained fire fighters as part of reductions to the service across the county. Labour country councillors warned that even with increasing fire prevention, cuts would increase response times and put lives at risk. Despite what local Conservatives said at the time, that's exactly what happened. However much you try to limit the need for the fire engines, they remain a vital part of our emergency services and seconds can be the matter between life and death.

So, it's with alarm that I notice the county council are consulting on a new 'West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service Integrated Risk Management Plan', plotting out how the service will change over coming years. While no one at the council would be foolish enough to spell out exactly what this means in terms of numbers of fire engines and firefighters, reading between the lines further cuts seem inevitable and the submission made by the county's front-line firefighters through their union the FBU raises real cause for concern.

We as citizens are faced with a choice: we can sit quietly by and allow the Conservatives to keep rolling the dice with our safety or we can stand alongside the men and women who so regularly put their own lives on the line for ours. We can save our fire service, but no one else will do it for us, if you want it you need to act to save it. A consultation is currently taking place on the draft plan, make sure to make your voice heard by going to: https://haveyoursay.westsussex.gov.uk/risk/west-sussex-fire-rescue-service-risk-management-pl/

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Sitting quietly

Running from danger is a natural part of our survival instinct. Yet, for those dangers to be overcome, some men and women must run into the flames. Literally. The men...

2018.05.04_ElectionCount.JPG

Crawley Labour Councillors and members celebrate victory at the Election Count

On behalf of Crawley Labour, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted last week, those involved in running the election, and everyone who put themselves forward to run or campaign, ensuring our town's democratic process remains alive and kicking.

With all the votes counted, every seat contested remained in the same party's hands as before the contest with Labour winning eight of twelve wards, although almost every seat now has a smaller majority. The popular vote across the town was essentially a draw, with the Tories securing a lead of only 5 votes in a constituency they won by almost 2,500 last June. It seems in Crawley, as in the country, voters are fundamentally divided on the big political questions.

Over the last week I've been repeatedly asked what this result means for Labour and the next General Election. Frankly, I'm tired of the spin, the truth is no one really knows. What's sad is no one asked me what the result means for Crawley, the most important question. For Crawley, it means Labour has another year delivering our programme for office: making housing more affordable, securing better job opportunities, regenerating Crawley's infrastructure and maintaining local services despite national cuts.

In 2019, new electoral boundaries are being introduced for Crawley, meaning that every councillor will have to re-stand for election on the new boundaries and residents will have the opportunity to completely replace the council should they choose. Over the next year, all of Crawley's parties will have to clearly set-out their vision for the town and how they intend to deliver what they promise. It is dishonest to promise every road a parking improvement scheme when the borrowing cost would take most of the next century to pay off, particularly not when it's a West Sussex County Council responsibility and they already take the vast majority of Crawley's council tax.

For Crawley Labour though, there is no time to take a break. We are back in the Town Hall, working to deliver on the commitments we made to the public and keep building a better future for Crawley.

Cllr Peter Lamb,

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Delivering on our Commitments

Crawley Labour Councillors and members celebrate victory at the Election Count On behalf of Crawley Labour, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted last week, those...

In the wake of Windrush, we’ve had cause to ask ourselves what sort of country we really are. Are we a country which values equality, celebrates diversity promotes community cohesion, and opposes racism and intolerance? Or are we going to become a country which judges people first by what they look like and not by who they are?

In Crawley we’ve always been proud of the strength of our community, as a New Town everyone here has come from somewhere else and yet rather than becoming a source of division that diversity has given us strength.

Some 20 years ago, I joined a fantastic group, known as ‘Crawley Campaign Against Racism’. This group was established in 1976, when a young man, dying from cancer in Crawley Hospital, wrote a letter to the Observer, opposing a surge of racism in the UK. Noticing the range of ethnicities amongst the doctors and nurses caring for him in the NHS, he called for us to: ’Leave the British race and join the human race.’

We see this effort to bridge the gap between cultures in the work of other local groups too, including Crawley Interfaith Network This organisation has brought together local religious leaders and believers from across the town’s faith groups: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Buddhist, meeting regularly and sharing their ideas and beliefs to promote greater tolerance, understanding and harmony.

As Crawley’s first Hindu Mayor, I sought to build upon this work in promoting the message that though we may be of many faiths and creeds, we are ‘One Crawley, one community’. Projects supporting this message over recent years have included a multi-faith service on Remembrance Day, along with bringing community and religious leaders together for celebrations on Eid, Diwali, Christmas and Vaisakhi, which as Mayor I was proud to host in Crawley’s council chamber.

As a country we have a choice, we can create a future based upon the prejudices of the past or we can choose to build a better one. I know which one I’m fighting for and I hope I can count on your support.

CllrRajSharma.jpgCllr Raj Sharma,

Labour Southgate

British values

In the wake of Windrush, we’ve had cause to ask ourselves what sort of country we really are. Are we a country which values equality, celebrates diversity promotes community cohesion,...

At every level the Conservatives hold power in Crawley, services are failing. That isn’t just the opinion of a Labour councillor, it’s played out in the pages of the Observer every week.

Despite the promises our MP made at the General Election, school underfunding has worsened, the extreme cuts proposed at Thomas Bennett highlighting the scale of the challenges now faced by every local school. Meanwhile, Crawley CCG, which pays for Crawley residents’ NHS treatment, has been in ‘Special Measures’ since last summer, for the first time risking the rationing of healthcare.

Things aren’t any better where the Tories hold power locally. Our Police Commissioner we’ve lost our dedicated neighbourhood PCSOs and police officers have become a rare sight. While the level of care Conservative West Sussex County Council can easily be seen by looking at the  state of our Highways, where their lack of action on broken pavements, potholes and parking comes up on almost every doorstep.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Labour-run Crawley Borough Council has shown you don’t have to give in to cuts, instead you can raise the revenue we need to provide residents with the high quality services they deserve. The amount the borough spends on services today is the same as when Labour regained control of the council four years ago. It wasn’t easy, but we believe in public services and are willing to put in the work to protect them.

One example of this is the bins. We’re one of less than a quarter of councils still running a weekly bin collection, we restored the grass cuts the Tories got rid of and created an economic development team which is delivering Crawley’s first ever Jobs and Skills Plan. Beyond that, we’ve built 1,000 new affordable homes for local people, invested in new leisure opportunities and started the regeneration of the town centre.

That progress is now at risk. When you vote next month you have a choice: vote in the exact same people responsible for the state of Crawley’s Highways or re-elect Labour to keep building a better future for Crawley.

CllrTimLunnon.jpgCllr Tim Lunnon

Labour, Broadfield South

A Better future for Crawley

At every level the Conservatives hold power in Crawley, services are failing. That isn’t just the opinion of a Labour councillor, it’s played out in the pages of the Observer...

In general, there are two sides to everything and in politics the party system lets us see that in action. I’m not going to claim my party gets everything right and usually you can at least see where your opponents are coming from, even seeing things from their perspective requires you to squint really hard and turn your head a little.

            What is much harder to understand is when someone argues in favour of a policy in one set of circumstances and then goes on to argue against it in another almost identical set of circumstances, the sole difference being that the political benefit to their party has reversed. That’s not just a matter of perspective, it means that either in the first or the second case they were wrong, and continuing to defend both is a hypocrisy.

            Such is the case with the boundary review. The council has put together a proposal which meets the independent commission’s requirements for electoral equality, and effective and convenient local government while maintaining the neighbourhood principle as far as possible, yet the Tories claim the scheme violates that very principle. Given that just two years ago they were arguing in favour of similar changes as part of the West Sussex County Council review and, worse, anyone who looks at their alternative scheme can see that it crosses more neighbourhood boundaries the council’s scheme, what are we to conclude? An honest change of heart or political machinations?

            Meanwhile, Tory leaflets are going out promising new parking bays across the town. Given that past parking schemes have cost an average £30,000 per bay and that the list of roads seeking schemes was approaching 200 last I checked, are we to believe they can finance five new bays for every road which needs them. The cost would be around £30,000,000, from a council with a budget half that amount. Never mind that the legal responsibility rests with Conservative-controlled West Sussex County Council. If they genuinely wanted to improve parking in Crawley, they already could. Impossible election commitments only lowers the tone of politics in our town.

CllrPeterLamb_1.jpgCllr Peter Lamb

Leader Crawley Borough Council

Lowering the Tone

In general, there are two sides to everything and in politics the party system lets us see that in action. I’m not going to claim my party gets everything right...

Councillor Crow’s weekly Conservative column continues to provide me with some entertainment to accompany my cornflakes on Wednesday mornings. I think I have now worked out his template; first, praise the actions of the Conservative central government and/or the Conservative county council and second criticise the Labour Party nationally and then take a swipe at the Labour borough council.

So last week firstly we had praise for the government’s action – with cross-party support, a long time coming and in response to high profile publicity notably from the ‘Blue Planet’ series– on plastics. Of course, Duncan Crow conveniently ignores many other issues where the government is under pressure – often exemplified locally – such as on school funding such as at Thomas Bennett, the national health service, the desperate need for genuinely affordable housing particularly for our young people, insecure employment and the way that immigrants have been treated (Windrush). He also manages to sidestep issues for which the Conservative County Council is responsible and where it is (to put it charitably) struggling – such as potholes, parking and adult social care.

Then, secondly, we had the criticism of the (‘increasingly far left’ whatever that means) Labour Party. He condescendingly finds it ‘very disappointing’ that Crawley Borough Council’s recycling rate is lower than the other (largely rural) parts of West Sussex. As a county councillor as well as borough councillor, he is surely aware of the contrasts between Crawley and other parts of the county in terms of population size and density, economic vitality and demographic. Most people in Crawley live in smaller houses with small or often non-existent gardens compared to at least many parts of West Sussex which is characterised by countryside sprinkled with individual homes, villages and small towns with those homes often set in large gardens. He also does know that the recycling statistics are based on weight of material collected and that the major component of that weight is from grass cuttings and garden clippings etc. It is therefore unsurprising that Crawley’s recycling percentages are relatively low since our gardens tend to be smaller! He also ought to know that the Green Bin service has now been extended to an almost all-year round service in Crawley which should improve Crawley’s recycling percentage and that there has been and continues to be a focus (to be fair supported by the county council) upon improving recycling rates in areas where flats predominate.

What he fails to mention – although he should know it – is that the amount of waste produced per Crawley resident is not only the lowest in West Sussex but one of the lowest in England! In other words, on average, each Crawley resident consumes less of the earth’s precious resources compared to an average resident almost anywhere else in England and anywhere else in West Sussex.

Finally he claims that the borough council either did not respond or (?) did respond in a way that he did not agree with to a communication from central government about recycling rates – and that ‘this’ (whatever ‘this’ was ) was evidence of Labour’s ‘(increasingly far-left) politics’ before ‘what is best’ for our town. What does he mean?!

For the record, at the borough council we are keen to give every encouragement to all Crawley residents to make prudent use of our planet’s finite resources and we work within very tight budgets to provide increasing opportunities for residents to recycle or dispose of unwanted items in a sustainable and responsible way.

CllrGeraintThomas.JPGCllr Geraint Thomas

Labour councillor for Northgate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the record over Waste

Councillor Crow’s weekly Conservative column continues to provide me with some entertainment to accompany my cornflakes on Wednesday mornings. I think I have now worked out his template; first, praise...

Elected representatives have a duty to understand the lives of the people we represent as best we can, and to do what we can to improve things – even when we don’t have the power to change things directly. That is why we in Labour support those asking the Government to think again about changes to the state pension rules which are causing hardship to women born in the 1950s.

The gender pay gap has made the headlines recently. This gap was much greater in the past, meaning that older women had less to put by for retirement, or to pay in to an occupational pension. To help the family budget, many women opted not to pay in to an occupational pension, anticipating receiving the State Pension at age 60.

Of course, the State Pension Age (SPA) should be the same for women and men, but the way the changes have been brought in is unfair. There was little, or no notice given, and the changes were brought in sooner than originally planned. This gave women no chance to rethink retirement plans. Due to changes to the SPA itself, some women will not be able to claim their pension until several years later than they expected.

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign is asking for a ‘bridging’ pension to provide an income until women reach the (new) State Pension age, and compensation for losses for those women who have already reached their SPA.

We are not asking for something to which we are not entitled. Women’s contribution to the economy has always been as important as men’s – even though much of that contribution has gone unrecognised and unpaid. The unpaid ‘caring work’ alone, that has been done by women, has saved the state billions, and so it could be argued that we have earned many times over what the ‘WASPI women’ are asking for. So far, the Government has refused to respond to concerns that have been raised, but women are used to having to struggle to be heard, and the WASPI campaign will continue! 

CllrKarenSudan.jpgCllr Karen Sudan

Labour, West Green

Gender pay gap

Elected representatives have a duty to understand the lives of the people we represent as best we can, and to do what we can to improve things – even when...

According to a recent survey, Finland is the happiest country in the world, with the United Kingdom ranking 19th for happiness. Surprising, perhaps, because we are one of the richest countries in the world. Not surprising, maybe, as we have endured eight years of Austerity, declining living standards and for many, very little increase in their income. This may be one of the richest countries, but if it is correct that more of that wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer people, then it follows that those who are now getting by, just, are not feeling particularly happy. Let alone those who are not getting by at all.

A recent explanation of the happiness of Finland, & other Scandinavian countries, is a lack of inequality, and also strong societies with communities where collective endeavour is more valued than individualism.

I think that local government has a role to play in enabling communities to come together, and I have always supported our Council’s work to further ‘social cohesion’- through neighbourhood forums, Let’s Face It events and my own favourite, Crawley parks’ ‘Friends’ groups.

It was on a warm summer evening back in 2004 when the first ‘Friends’ group was formed in Goffs Park. The group is still going 14 years later, & now there are ‘Friends’ groups for all of Crawley’s major parks. The groups complement the Council’s work in maintaining the parks, doing work which the Council may not otherwise have the resources to do. The huge amount of invasive rhododendron which the ‘Friends of Broadfield Park’ have cleared springs to mind- work which has replaced a sterile environment with one which opens up new views in the park & gives wildlife a chance to flourish. A Saturday morning working in Broadfield Park is like going to an outdoor gym, without the membership fee.

Of course, the Council does not expect that Crawley’s parks should be run by volunteers; that would be unrealistic, and unfair.

‘Community development’ was very popular in local government , until Austerity began to bite. I prefer to think of it as helping residents create communities, and even though funding is short it need not cost a great deal, especially in terms of the benefits it can offer to everyone.

Crawley may never achieve the levels of ‘hygge’ enjoyed by the residents of Copenhagen or Helsinki, but by taking part in our communities, we can have a great time trying.

Cllr Ian Irvine,

Broadfield North  

Building Crawley's community - Scandi-style?

According to a recent survey, Finland is the happiest country in the world, with the United Kingdom ranking 19th for happiness. Surprising, perhaps, because we are one of the richest...

In 1910, an international conference of socialist women decided that an annual day for women should be held, highlighting gender-based inequalities. The following year saw the first International Women's Day and since 1914 it has taken place globally every 8th March.

While progress has been made over the years, not least around female suffrage, inequalities persist. #MeToo highlighted the scale of hidden sexual violence and the ongoing failure of our systems to provide justice to those affected by discrimination.

Yet, inequalities also remain in the open. Organisations employing more than 250 people are now required to publish gender pay gap figures, which across the UK is currently estimated to be around 18.4%. Unfortunately the picture in Crawley is somewhat worse.

While Crawley Borough Council has a median gender pay gap of 0%, meaning that across the council as a whole the average wages of men and women are the same, figures suggest the town itself has the second largest pay gap in the UK, with the average wages in Crawley for male employees being half again what their female colleagues earn. That impact on take home pay is before we consider the fact that cuts to public services and social security have impacted women harder than men over the last eight years.

Only a Labour Government is committing to closing the gap, requiring companies employing over 250 workers to show what action they are taking to deliver pay equality or else face fines. There will be those who claim this is illiberal or anti-business, yet Governments are required to act when systems fail to fix themselves and the same objections have been made every time an individual has sought to be judged on their merits and not the circumstances of their birth. Ultimately, enough ink has been spilt discussing the problem, a Labour Government will act.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Solving the pay gap

In 1910, an international conference of socialist women decided that an annual day for women should be held, highlighting gender-based inequalities. The following year saw the first International Women's Day...

Henry Smith MP urged by Council Leader to vote against his Government’s plans to leave some of Crawley’s poorest children without a free school meal 

Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council and Labour Parliamentary Candidate, has written to Henry Smith urging him to put Crawley’s poorest children before Tory Party loyalty next week, by voting against a Government plan to impose an income threshold on families currently receiving universal credit. 

The policy, which the Government sought to sneak through without a vote, will mean thousands of children in West Sussex, many growing up in poverty, will not be able to access a free school meal, according to the Children’s Society. The charity estimates it could affect over a million children across the country. 

For some children, this could literally mean the difference between eating a hot meal that day, or going hungry. 

As part of the same measure, the government is also planning to remove free childcare from those earning above the threshold.

For those Crawley families that are affected, the income threshold will create a cliff-edge, meaning some parents could be better off either reducing their hours, or not taking additional hours or pay rises, because moving just above the income threshold would leave them hundreds of pounds worse off for each child affected. This directly undermines the Government’s stated aim of Universal Credit, to make work pay.

The Government’s plans to restrict free school meals and free childcare will be brought to the Commons next week, following an intervention from Labour to bring these heartless and short sighted plans to a binding vote. 

Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council and Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley, has written to Henry Smith, calling on him to vote the plans down. Speaking about the Government plans, Cllr Lamb said:

"Taking hot dinners away from children in Crawley who are living in poverty is simply wrong. This isn't some complicated issue which is open to different interpretations, if Mr Smith votes for this proposal he is quite literally voting to make local children in low income households go hungry.

"Mr Smith was elected to serve the needs of our community, not the interests of his party.

“I have written to Mr Smith asking him, as our MP, to consider his priorities on Tuesday and I very much hope that he listens.”

Free School Meal Cuts

Henry Smith MP urged by Council Leader to vote against his Government’s plans to leave some of Crawley’s poorest children without a free school meal  Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley...

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