Something that takes a lot of attention as Leader of Crawley Borough Council is how the council is performing financially. It is extremely welcome that the council delivered in budget this past year and that there was an underspend based on the original projections, which was largely due to the Covid costs not being as large as we originally thought. When the council set the budget for last year, this was at the same time as the second Lockdown, so it was very difficult to know what was ahead due to the impacts of Covid.
But it isn’t all encouraging news unfortunately, the council’s income from fees and charges has not yet recovered to pre-Covid levels and there are still significant pressures which we will need to address over the coming year.
Yes, there is a cost of living crisis for residents, but I’m sad to say that it’s no different for the council as well. The fuel bills for council buildings and vehicles has gone up considerably, just as it has for the public. In addition, the soaring inflation rate, nearing 10%, means our suppliers costs have increased, as well.
In this challenging situation, I do want to pay tribute to all our council officers and particularly the finance officers who have really worked incredibly hard indeed. They have had to create capacity to deal with the pandemic at the same time. I know that was often very difficult, but they all delivered and prioritised services to our residents.
I will mention our business rates team who administered all the grants and the £150 fuel payments in April. They have gone above and beyond and delivered something quite amazing given all the pressures.
And the fact is that members of the public will only have seen the tip of the iceberg, even as councillors we won’t have seen it all. And for that I wish to give our thanks on behalf of the Labour Group and hope to go forward with repeating that success over the coming year, while recognising the financial challenges still to come.
Cllr Michael Jones
Leader, Crawley Borough Council