June 13th, 2013
Local government consistently scores high public approval ratings for the many services councils provide. Generally speaking citizens also think council services are good value for money. Even members of the Con-Dem coalition Government have stated that local government is just about the most efficient part of the public sector.
Yet in over twenty years service as a councillor I can’t recall a time when the actions of national government seem to have focused so determinedly on squeezing the life out of councils. The Tories and Liberal Democrats are doing this by cutting back ever more savagely the funding councils receive from central government. At the same time, whilst talking about ‘localism’, in practice the Government doesn’t allow councils and residents to make real decisions locally about levels of service and funding. The Secretary of State frequently tries to micro manage councils from Whitehall by directing us on the smallest of matters.
Local government has faced many challenges during the last thirty years , the disastrous Poll Tax, enforced transfers of services to the private sector and large scale transfers of homes to housing associations, to name but three. Despite all this councils have somehow managed to keep going in a recognisable form. In Cameron and Clegg’s Britain it looks like this may be changing. There are growing concerns among councillors of all parties that unless the Government rethinks its overall approach to local government, some, perhaps many councils, will buckle under the strain and literally go bankrupt. If that starts to happen we will be in uncharted waters with consequences for those we serve that are not difficult to predict in terms of services disappearing and others reduced to a basic minimum. All councils will be dreading the Chancellor’s spending review on 26 June and worrying about the local budget setting round for 2014-15.
Britain remains one of the richest countries in the world. It is staggering that local services are being starved of funds. This makes it all the harder not to conclude that ‘austerity’ is a handy smoke screen masking the Government’s intention to permanently downgrade public services including local services that are so central to the quality of life in Britain. Local government must be properly supported so that it can help meet the natural aspirations of communities throughout the country. A new settlement for local government which truly recognises its full potential is long overdue.
Labour councillor for TilgateREAD MORE
June 7th, 2013
This week, Labour has announced its Shadow Cabinet and I am very pleased to be shadow portfolio holder for Community Engagement, it’s the portfolio I held back in the early 2000′s and involves many of the roles that I most enjoy about being a Borough Councillor and living in Crawley.
In Crawley we have a wide and diverse community, reaching right back to the early pioneers who settled here from London in the 1950′s to the Asians who fled from Armin, and the many British passports holders who came here for a better life and made our communities so strong, to more recent groups from eastern Europe all seeking what many of us have enjoyed for so long, a good and stable way of life, good housing, good education prospects and employment. All bringing a little of their culture to our town.
Crawley’s voluntary sector is a vital and ever giving part of our Town, without the selflessness of so many over many years, Crawley would not be the Town it is. For all the people who say there is nothing to do in Crawley, they just have not looked. There are clubs and societies for just about every aspect of life, and most of these are run by volunteers for the benefit of others. Not forgetting the many charities and organisations who work tirelessly to help and support those in Crawley who can no longer look after themselves or to give a little extra cheer.
Many neighbourhoods now have their own Forum – they all take a slightly different course, which suits the particular area, most are organised by volunteers and all are open to every resident living in that neighbourhood.
Crawley’s Twinning with Dorsten celebrates 40 years this year and on the 27th July, there is to be a celebration of this achievement in Queens Square when all Crawley residents will be welcome.
Finally Health – a huge area of interest and change for Crawley with the introduction of the Crawley Consortium, and there are always concerns about acute services provision and quality at East Surrey and Crawley Hospitals.
Community Engagement at Crawley Borough Council is a vital service and touches the lives of every Crawley resident at some time and I am proud to shadow the role and committed to supporting our communities.
Shadow Porfolio for Community EngagementREAD MORE
May 30th, 2013
Crawley Borough Council Labour leader, Cllr Peter Lamb has announced the new Labour shadow cabinet for 2013/14.
After the success of this year’s county council elections where the Labour Party took 6 out of the 9 county council seats in Crawley and gained a higher share of the vote than the Conservatives, Labour councillors on Crawley Borough Council are continuing to bring new ideas to the town and scrutinise Tory decisions which have affected the town in a negative way in the run-up to 2014’s local Crawley Borough Council elections.
Cllr Peter Lamb said “It’s fantastic to be able to benefit from such a range of talents in the shadow cabinet, from experienced former portfolio-holders who built up the facilities the town has today, to new members with fresh ideas and energy.”
“The economic and planning challenges facing our Town are going to affect everyone’s lives to a significant extent. I am sure that Crawley will come through with the right decisions, and I am looking forward to doing my part to get a great result for all of the people of our Town.”
Shadow Portfolio for Customer and Corporate Services – Cllr David Shreeves said “I am working towards ensuring a cohesive landscape for Customer and Corporate Services alike and that residents in Crawley get the service they deserve”
Shadow Portfolio for Community Engagement – Cllr Brenda Smith said “I am very pleased to be shadow portfolio holder for Community Engagement, it’s the portfolio I held back in the early 2000′s and involves many of the roles that I most enjoy about being a Borough Councillor and living in Crawley.”
Shadow Portfolio for Housing – Cllr Stephen Joyce said “Crawley Homes is the largest housing provider in the town and we must continue to provide a good and efficient service and it is vital we must find a way to build more social housing for the 3000 Crawley people on the waiting list”
Shadow Portfolio for Environmental Services – Cllr Colin Lloyd said ‘The Environment portfolio includes several of the council’s most important services to the residents of Crawley, such as waste collection and household recycling, grass cutting and Environmental Health. We are determined to protect these vital services which contribute so fundamentally to the quality of life in Crawley.’
“I will continue to monitor activities at the Hawth theatre as I have grave concerns on the community arts programme and the community access to which the Hawth was based on when built by Labour. I will also be keeping on the pressure on K2 to ensure older people have facilities they can use”
May 29th, 2013
We have some big decisions to make in Crawley. New Government legislation requires us to come up with a strategic plan for our town, that will run until 2029. And the plan, once agreed, will control and influence all aspects of our lives in our Town. How many houses can we build? Where can we build them? Where will we all work? What sort of jobs will be on offer? And at what wage rates?
We live in a pre-defined authority boundary that is constrained by the airport to the north and the M23 to the east. And we have severe restrictions on the countryside to the west and south, not least of which is that residents don’t want further building there. Crawley people have expressed their view that they do not want continued ‘infill’ on every available piece of green space within the town’s boundaries. And yet we have thousands of families on our waiting lists. The new development in Kilnwood Vale is actually in Horsham and will not, as a result, dent this number. And the north east sector development will not be sufficient to deliver enough houses to significantly reduce this demand. So where would you put the additional houses that we need?
We are delighted to welcome the success of the Manor Royal BID, where local businesses have voted to invest in our town. This investment will be key, to all of our prosperity, when it is successful in making Manor Royal a more attractive proposition for new businesses to come to our town. And we must try to encourage high-value businesses, so that we will have better paid jobs for our people and especially our young people and university graduates. But what can Crawley Borough Council do to encourage and support this work? How much of our council tax should we invest in this, when we are faced with severe cuts in Government grants?
And, of course, there is the ever present question of the future of Gatwick. Do we recognise how closely linked the overall prosperity of our town is with the airport, and that there is not really a valid status-quo option or do we think that we don’t depend on the prosperity of the airport and we should constrain it at its existing size?
There will be several public consultations on the new Local Plan. The next starts on 3rd June. Please make sure that your voice is heard, by completing the questionnaires, either on-line or on paper, and/or by contacting your Councillors. They are waiting to hear from you.
Crawley Observer column – 29th May 2013READ MORE