Crawley is now a year into the pandemic, yet with over 25,000 residents already vaccinated we can at last see light at the end of the tunnel. While I’m sure the prospect of returning to life as normal will come as great relief to us all, the reality is for many the struggle is far from over.
Furlough and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme are only temporary schemes, protecting jobs from the impact of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions, and sooner or later they will end. Almost 23,000 Crawley residents are already unemployed or on furlough and SEISS and while we hope people will return to their old jobs once these schemes have ended, the reality is many will not.
The problem isn’t just that the UK’s unprecedented economic decline will mean it takes time for businesses to need a full workforce again, but that many have used the crisis to restructure in ways which require fewer employees and on poorer conditions. There’s no returning to normal, the question is: will Crawley accept poorer jobs prospects, less affordable housing, and a town centre boarded-up shop-by-shop? Or, will we fight back?
Crawley, our NHS and the welfare state weren’t built during prosperity, they were built by a country bankrupted by the cost of WWII. Yet, instead of accepting stagnation, Labour grew the economy back to prosperity, investing in the infrastructure and skills businesses needed to thrive and constructing housing people could afford. That’s the route to prosperity Crawley Labour is offering.
Since the economic impact of COVID-19 became clear, the council’s Economic Recovery Taskforce has worked to develop a plan for delivering new jobs and regeneration for the town’s key economic centres, coupled with the council’s existing ambitious affordable housing programme. While we believe a ground-led recovery is possible, Government support in the form of freeport status for Manor Royal, an Institute of Technology, Crawley Innovation Centre, and help towards our Green New Deal for Crawley would vastly speed-up the process, saving local families years’ of hardship. Today’s Budget will be a strong indicator of Government willingness to help Crawley back on its feet.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council