It was interesting to read of Henry Smith’s (the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Crawley in the General Election) non-attendance at an Education Question Time on April 26th at Crawley Library. At the time, he was Crawley’s MP and, as parliamentary private secretary to the education minister, claimed a ‘unique opportunity’ to raise concerns ‘on the inside’. His non-attendance at the education meeting meant that local councillors from other political parties could not be on the panel. Clearly there is a well-publicised issue of shortage of funding for West Sussex Schools. Also, If he had attended, he could have explained – and be challenged- about the implications of the possible building of (or conversion of a current comprehensive school to) a grammar school (a policy which his Leader enthusiastically supports) in Crawley and the announcement of a ‘Free’ secondary school ‘in’ (but where in?) Forge Wood which he is reported as welcoming. I strongly suspect that there is no such site available in the new neighbourhood currently under construction. The new neighbourhood’s configuration was essentially written in stone by the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, in 2011 and already suffers from a diminished footprint due to further flooding investigations. Consequently, there is nowhere in Forge Wood that it can be located.
This is in stark contrast to his appearance at a Crawley ‘Christians Against Poverty’ (CAP) attended on Sunday 31st April at St Andrews Church in Furnace Green where Mr Smith was invited to speak – without needing to answer any questions. To a substantial audience, including myself, Mr Smith quite rightly praised CAP for the way that it supported individuals in severe financial hardship (despite often being employed). He claimed (without being specific) that he had suffered politically for adhering to his Christian faith. However, Mr Smith made no reference to the issue of poverty as exacerbated by his government’s past, present and future deliberate policies which can be summarized in three words -; ‘I, Daniel Blake’ and in seven from page 8 of the 2015 Conservative Manifesto ‘We will find £12billion from welfare savings’.
Labour Borough Councillor for Northgate Ward