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Cllr John StanleyMessage from Cllr Peter Smith 

I was devastated to learn of the death of my friend and colleague Cllr John Stanley on Tuesday, at the age of 46. John lived most of his life in Ifield and loved Ifield, Crawley and the Labour party. He worked tirelessly for our community and was a fantastic colleague. I had daily communications from him by text, email and 'phone and he kept me up to date on everything that was going on. He was always good natured and never had a bad word to say about anybody.

This was the last text that I got from him on Tuesday morning: "Morning did you have a good holiday". He knew everything that was going on and cared so much.

I've pictured him leading our successful campaign to get him re-elected to the Council in 2014 and with Chris Oxlade and me during the campaign.  

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I will miss you John and Ifield will be the poorer for your leaving us as well. 

Labour Leader Cllr Peter Lamb said “We are all going to miss John hugely.  He had a heart of gold and never had a bad word to say about anybody.  He was respected by all of his colleagues on the Council and in the Party and was a very hard-working Councillor for Ifield.  Our thoughts go out to his family at this very sad time.”

We will publish funeral details when they are available.  Please leave any messages using the comments item below.

Cllr John Stanley

Message from Cllr Peter Smith  I was devastated to learn of the death of my friend and colleague Cllr John Stanley on Tuesday, at the age of 46. John lived...

Housing is one of our biggest problems and frankly no one is getting to grips with it. 

We stopped building enough homes in the 1970s, after which Right-to-Buy undermined both the financial model for building council housing and the schemes council investment enabled. We're living longer lives in smaller households, so regardless of what happens with freedom of movement we're still going to need many more houses. Failure of supply to keep pace with demand means that not only are there too few homes to go around but, as people outbid one another, higher prices. 

Every week some new initiative is announced to get us building, yet nothing of the scale we need. We were promised that the Housing White Paper would deliver that change and I'm reliably informed the draft paper was everything which was promised, only for all its actual substance to be gutted by Number 10 worried a mass-building programme would play badly in the Tory shires. 

The failure is the planning system itself. Land is the most critical component in housing delivery and our system encourages shortages by only allocating the bare minimum sites in each area for development. So developers then outbid one another for the land, working out what they can sell the units for and subtracting their costs and profit margin to produce their bid. This means from the start our system assumes homes will be sold for the maximum possible price. Worse still, if they pay too much the planning system allows them to avoid local requirements for affordable housing and infrastructure on the grounds of 'viability', the housing equivalent of saying you've spent too much money so we'll let you off your income tax. 

There are two solutions. One, get rid of Planning and let developers build whatever they want wherever they want, prices would certainly drop but everyone would suffer from badly designed localities. Two, look to Crawley's history, another centrally-driven programme of New Town building, buying land at agricultural prices and building out whole communities with the infrastructure they need. Both would work, but I know which one I'd rather see.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader Crawley Borough Council

 

Getting a grip on Housing

Housing is one of our biggest problems and frankly no one is getting to grips with it.  We stopped building enough homes in the 1970s, after which Right-to-Buy undermined both...

As kids head back to school, perhaps now is a good time to review the general state of local education.

Over recent years, education has played an increasingly important role in public debate in Crawley. There’s a good reason for this, education remains the best way to improve children’s quality of life, it’s how we have the skills we need to provide high quality public services and deliver the well-qualified workforce the UK requires to succeed in the global economy.

In Crawley, we have some great schools and fantastic teachers, but there have been far too many examples of where those schools have been let down by a Government more interested in ideological experimentation than education.

Having been lauded by our MP, Crawley’s first free school was also the first in the UK to be shut down due to poor performance and at great cost to the local education authority, while the future of our second free school remains uncertain as fundamental planning concerns over pupil safety remain unanswered.

While the Government has bent over backwards to fund free schools, our local schools have been starved of funding, resulting in an unprecedented visit by headteachers to Downing Street to protest at the lack of funding.

Since the election, it has been claimed that this could all be resolved through changes to the National Funding Formula, something our MP has certainly claimed. The trouble is that while shifting money around between schools may well mean that there are some winners, although only because there are some losers under the changes, the schools won’t in reality be any better off.

The reason for this is that while the maximum amount a school can gain under the formula is 5.5%, the National Audit Office’s prediction is that over the next two years rising school costs will be at 8%. Sorry, but rearranging the deckchairs wouldn’t have stopped the Titanic from going down.

Labour’s costed manifesto showed this isn’t inevitable, we can finance our local schools and do so without making cuts to other schools, all that’s needed is the will to do it.

Cllr Peter Lamb,

Leader Crawley Borough Council

Proper funding for Education

As kids head back to school, perhaps now is a good time to review the general state of local education. Over recent years, education has played an increasingly important role...

As summer holidays draw to an end and children get ready to return to school, it is worth remembering that for some the last few weeks have not been a pleasant break from school work. Certainly, not every parent can afford a holiday away, particularly overseas with the exchange rates we face with a greatly weakened pound. Yet, the more pressing issue is that of hunger. 

During term-times, almost nine thousand pupils claim a free school meal in West Sussex, a service offered by the state to ensure that every child is able to get the nutrition they need to grow and develop healthily, with considerable evidence that hunger has a major negative impact upon the ability of children to learn. 

Clearly, outside of term-times this isn’t an option, meaning in the South East as a whole around 121,000 children are at risk of going hungry over the summer. In Crawley, at last count only 62% of local Year 6 pupils were of a healthy weight. Research recently released by the Trussell Trust has highlighted the increasing reliance of families on food banks during the holidays, with almost half of food parcels that went to children going to primary school aged children. 

A few years ago, as the recession took hold, food banks became the charities which were fashionable to support. While the support food banks receive has decreased over the years since, due to ongoing cuts to social security in the UK and real wages falling as inflation keeps rising, the need for them has not yet declined. 

Surely it can’t be right that in Twenty-First Century Britain, children are left to go hungry again? It is clearly wrong that for the vast majority of children, their future is determined by the success of their parents. The solution to this won’t come overnight, but by ensuring that a hard day’s work gets a decent day’s pay, starting with Labour’s pledge to introduce of Real Living Wage of a minimum £10 an hour, we can ensure that every child is at least able to get three full meals a day.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Feeding kids properly

As summer holidays draw to an end and children get ready to return to school, it is worth remembering that for some the last few weeks have not been a...

Care is back in the news this week with a flurry of stories following the collapse of the sector. While it’s a good thing we’re living longer lives, it does mean there’s an increasing pressure on services which provide support for our elderly and these services are now failing. 

It’s a national disgrace in twenty-first century Britain we’re unable to care for our senior citizens, our loved ones, people who have spent a lifetime paying taxes only to be left without support when they need it most. 

Following their usual barely thought out approach to policy, the Government is threatening to slash council funding for care unless hospital bed blocking is reduced by 70% before Winter. There are several issues with this idea. 

Firstly, to move people out of hospitals you need places for them to go and neither the private nor public sector can continue to afford to provide beds at the price the Government is willing to pay, without new care beds hospital bed blocking can’t be reduced. Secondly, Councils have lost almost half their funding over recent years, you cut funding further and the ability to provide care beds drops further and who is going to pick up that excess demand: the NHS. Congratulations, a policy to reduce pressure on the NHS…has successfully created further pressure on the NHS. 

This problem is not irresolvable. Since the Government’s U-turn on business rate retention local government has been left uncertain of how it will be funded in the future, provide stability in council funding and we can plan for the additional care beds we need. Secondly, nationally we must make better use of assistive technology and follow the example of initiatives such as Dementia-friendly Crawley in improving community support for ageing residents, so people can live independently for longer. Lastly, we need to redirect funding from acute care to earlier interventions to help people not only live longer but healthier lives, reducing future pressure on the care system. All of this should be achievable without requiring huge amounts of new money, it just takes a bit of competence.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Social care can be afforded

Care is back in the news this week with a flurry of stories following the collapse of the sector. While it’s a good thing we’re living longer lives, it does...

Fancy a BBQ?  Fancy some decently priced drinks? All are welcome to come along to the Labour Club on Sunday 3rd September.  You don't have to be a member as everyone is welcome.

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BBQ fun at the Labour Supporters Club

Fancy a BBQ?  Fancy some decently priced drinks? All are welcome to come along to the Labour Club on Sunday 3rd September.  You don't have to be a member as...

Gandhi said that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. It could equally be said that we’re judged by how we treat our young, sick, disabled and elderly. By that measure, on every count, the Conservatives are diminishing the greatness of our nation. 

For the last seven years we’ve watched the collapse of our care system, recent research by the BBC has revealed that by the end of next year 3,000 senior citizens in need of care will have nowhere to go. 

How did it come to this? The generation which won WWII gave us a welfare system which would take care of us from the cradle to the grave. Yet, over the years which followed, bit-by-bit, so slowly we barely noticed, we’ve allowed that safety net to be stolen from us, so that now our loved ones are left without a place to go when they need care or else are faced with financial ruin in paying for it. Is that what we wanted for our elderly, is this the England we’ve been building together? 

When we allow others to suffer what does that say about us? Even if we never rely upon those services ourselves, every citizen pays a price for creating a country where suffering is considered acceptable. 

We’ve allowed others to persuade us that there is no alternative. Yet, things weren’t always this way and other countries still manage to care for their elderly. Is England different, is there some unique obstacle preventing us from caring for people? No, there’s always an alternative. 

At the election, Labour’s fully-costed manifesto showed how we can fix social care. We can follow the footsteps of the Greatest Generation and build a National Care Service, with an extra £8bn invested in care by the end of the Parliament, with proper funding for carers, a cap on personal contributions, free end of life care extended and visits that last longer than 15 minutes. We can restore our nation’s greatness, but for that to happen we must restore a state which cares for all of its members.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Restoring our Greatness

Gandhi said that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. It could equally be said that we’re judged by how we treat our young, sick,...

Healthcare in Crawley has been in the news again this week, as leaks from whistle-blowers have revealed we live in one of fourteen areas at risk of the Capped Expenditure Process, which if implemented will severely restrict the money available for Crawley’s health services. 

The news follows on from recent revelations that local patients are being denied angiograms and angioplasties as a cost-saving measure, that we’re at risk of losing existing services from Crawley Hospital and Crawley’s Clinical Commissioning Group has been put into special measures, as the budget they receive from central government no longer covers Crawley’s needs. 

For years Labour has warned the NHS isn’t safe in Conservative hands, but while many thought that meant some very visible large-scale privatisation of its services, the NHS is instead at risk of a death by a thousand cuts. 

Aneurin Bevan, legendary Labour Cabinet Member and Founder of the NHS, allegedly once said, ‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.’ Yet, when the destruction place slowly, quietly, wrapped up in vague terms such as ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ and ‘Capped Expenditure Processes’, will people realise what is happening before it is too late? Will we awaken one day to find that the safety net that was always there to catch us has been replaced by a cold American-style insurance system, where your right to live comes second to what you have in the bank. 

Just this week, the Leader of my party, Jeremy Corbyn, visited Crawley to discuss with local health professionals and party members the state of our health services and how the next Labour Government will save our NHS. 

At the last election, Labour put forward a fully-costed manifesto, showing how we could afford to invest in the health services the country needs with a fair system of taxation. In contrast, the Tory Government, who ran on an un-costed manifesto, still have a £3bn blackhole in their budget. If the Conservatives can find money for Northern Ireland to buy DUP votes, they should find money for England’s NHS.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Labour Northgate, Leader Crawley Borough Council

 

Tory £3bn black hole in NHS budget

Healthcare in Crawley has been in the news again this week, as leaks from whistle-blowers have revealed we live in one of fourteen areas at risk of the Capped Expenditure...

In a representative democracy, the only chance we voters have to shape Government policy is voting for MPs, doing so on the basis of the manifesto they set before us. That’s why it’s a big deal to u-turn on a manifesto, it’s a broken contract with the electorate, every one is a serious breach of our democratic traditions and yet in just two months we’ve numbed to the Conservatives ditching their election commitments. 

One such policy u-turn was on implementing an energy price cap, limiting the costs of energy to levels far more reasonable than the ones consumers currently face. A commitment stolen from Labour’s 2015 manifesto, which at the time the Tories claimed was unworkable, only to later propose it as their own policy. 

Given the squeeze on people’s living standards, capping energy prices would come as a welcome boost to most people’s incomes, but for the 2.3m British households affected by fuel poverty it would go further, it would be a lifeline. With British Gas announcing a 12.5% increase in energy prices this week, it’s clear that something has to be done but this isn’t the Government to do it. 

As a council, we do our best to help tackle rising energy prices. Crawley’s collective energy switch scheme has saved households an average of £200. As a landlord, the council has retrofitted many of its properties to include solar panels and is building new Passivhaus-standard council houses, units so draft-proof they require almost no heating. 

The Town Hall redevelopment project will take things further, creating a new low-carbon Town Centre Heat Network which will reduce energy costs for properties connected into the system. Meanwhile, grants remain available for those on low incomes to help improve their homes’ energy efficiency, reducing residents’ energy costs while helping to move the town towards our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. 

As ever, as a council we will always do our best to serve the town but to really tackle this problem we need a voice in Westminster prepared to speak up for Crawley and a Government that is willing to listen.

CllrPeterLamb.jpgCllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Tackling energy prices

In a representative democracy, the only chance we voters have to shape Government policy is voting for MPs, doing so on the basis of the manifesto they set before us....

If you're a representative for an area, I believe you have a duty to represent it. The actions of Crawley Tories increasingly say otherwise. 

West Sussex County Council takes most of Crawley's Council Tax, their income is in the hundreds of millions. By contrast, Crawley Borough Council gets £15m, almost half of what we got a decade ago. 

For years, Crawley taxpayers have paid twice for county's services, paying county once to provide them, then essentially paying again for Crawley Borough Council to bring them up to standard. This isn't fair on taxpayers and it's no longer affordable. 

While it's true West Sussex County Council has got itself into hundreds of millions in debt, mostly accrued when it was led by our current MP,  they are our Highways Authority. Their responsibility for parking is highlighted by the parking audits they are undertaking and which they are refusing to talk to the borough council about. Pretty clear division of responsibilities it would seem. 

So, when we asked West Sussex to help pay for parking improvement as our Highways Authority using some of our local taxes, that seemed reasonable. Yet the Tories in response voted for no action at all on parking. 

The fact that three senior members of their group occupy leading county council roles must be a coincidence, who would vote against their own area? 

A chance to redeem themselves came immediately after, with a detailed motion asking councillors to support a new station at Kilnwood Vale, providing ease of access to a station for that side of Crawley and reducing traffic and parking pressures around existing stations at zero cost to Crawley. Easy decision for Crawley councillors, right? 

Apparently not. The Tories abstained, needing 'more information' to decide between a station next to Crawley and one next to Horsham. 

It is becoming increasingly clear to everyone that the Conservatives in Crawley are here to be the voice of County Hall, since that is exactly what they do every time it comes to a vote. In Crawley Labour, we know who we serve and we will always put Crawley first. 

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Who do we Serve?

If you're a representative for an area, I believe you have a duty to represent it. The actions of Crawley Tories increasingly say otherwise.  West Sussex County Council takes most...

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