As people tuck into the turkey and unwrap another ‘interesting’ jumper from Granny, I’m sure it’s only the most hardened consumers of local news who will make it through to the political columns and well done to you.
Over recent weeks I’ve attended a number of carol concerts and while I tried to avoid singing itself, out of charity for others, I enjoyed listening again to the lyrics and thinking about some of their meanings.
Good King Wenceslas is a particular favourite, the story of a legendary Czech monarch who weathered a storm to bring food to the poor on Boxing Day. Charity is traditional at Christmas and I know the efforts local organisations, like Open House, go to in order to provide disadvantaged groups an opportunity to enjoy the festive cheer.
Yet the demands upon charities are increasing. Almost one million people in the UK were forced to use food banks last year, a huge increase on previous years. Whatever the talk of recovery, between zero-hours contracts, falling real wages and benefits sanctions, it’s clear that for many a pay check is no longer enough to feed their family.
Earlier this month a motion by Labour county councillors to safeguard food bank funding was voted down by the Conservatives. No one, as far as I’m aware, disagreed with the need for food banks but the comments made showed a disbelief that local government had a role to play in addressing poverty. I disagree entirely.
Crawley Borough Council is in the process of establishing a Fairness Commission at the moment, as several other Labour councils have already done. The goal is not to have yet another talking shop but a body which will genuinely look at the issue of inequality in the town and generate real solutions for addressing the problems.
My hope is that, much like the Good King himself, in Crawley we can take direct action to address poverty and tackle an issue which affects our community as a whole.
In the meantime, can I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Labour Group Leader