Thursday, 13 April 2017

It is the Conservatives who stand up for Crawley in West Sussex

Crawley may be small in size, but we play a major part in West Sussex 
Championing Crawley comes naturally to me because we have so much going for our town. I certainly don’t need to invoke any politics of envy to make a good case as to why Crawley should have something. For political reasons, Labour pitch us here in Crawley as being some sort of victim of the rest of West Sussex as well as pitching Crawley Borough Council against West Sussex County Council.

For years I’ve observed Labour claims that ‘Tory Chichester gets everything and Crawley gets nothing’ and that ‘only Labour stands up for Crawley in West Sussex’, both of which are of course complete and utter nonsense. Ironically, the Liberal Democrats in Chichester campaign on how Crawley gets everything from West Sussex County Council because we are the economic powerhouse of the county and they claim that Chichester gets forgotten by the Conservatives. 
Realities are very different. Crawley Borough Council and West Sussex County Council actually work together very well. An obvious example of this is the regeneration of Queens Square, conceived by the County Council thanks to input from Conservative County Councillors from Crawley and then embraced in partnership by the Borough Council.

Crawley is very well represented at West Sussex County Council. The Chief Executive is from Crawley and the Executive Director for Economy, Infrastructure and Environment was until recently, the Chief Executive of Crawley Borough Council for the last eight years. Also, two of the three Conservative County Councillors from Crawley are members of the County Council’s decision-making Cabinet.

My own record in my County Council role championing Crawley is very strong. Indeed, I’ve never missed a Full Council meeting in my entire 12 years of office and I always vote for what is truly best for Crawley. Conversely, Labour’s record is poor, recently demonstrated by half their Crawley County Councillors being absent for the important February Budget Full Council meeting. Of those who did turn up, they all voted against the £11 million Better Pavements Programme. So next time Labour claim only they stand up for Crawley in West Sussex, ask yourself who is really doing so?        

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Brexit - We Need To Respect Differences

Insulting Leave voters - Labour candidate for Three Bridges & Pound Hill South

Today, Wednesday the 29th of March sees the much-anticipated triggering of Article 50 which starts the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union. I am optimistic about our leaving of the EU and I believe that our country has a very bright future as a uniquely placed outwardly looking global nation.

The UK voted Leave by 52% to 48% in last June’s referendum and in Crawley we voted Leave by 58% to 42%. However, while my view and the majority view is positive about us leaving the EU, I recognise that over 40% is a very significant minority and that not only do people like myself need to recognise this opposing view, we need to be respectful of it. Indeed, I recognise the concerns about the uncertainty going forward that many Remain voters have. This is why I think that as start to leave the EU, we need to come together and make sure we make the very best of it for our country’s future, regardless of how we all voted last June.

Therefore, it is very disappointing that the Crawley Labour Party feel unable to be respectful of differing views from theirs on Brexit. I was appalled when the day after the referendum that Julian Charatan, who is the former Chairman of the Crawley Labour Party and also Labour’s candidate for Three Bridges & Pound Hill South in the upcoming County Council elections on 4th May, wrote on his publicly viewable Facebook account: “So it’s confirmed. We live on a nasty little island where a majority of ignorant little bigots have just voted to slash their economic throats”.
While feelings can run high in politics, all of us involved in public life should maintain respect for opposing viewpoints and certainly not be insulting of those who exercised their democratic right to vote Leave in the EU referendum. As we enter these uncertain times with the triggering of Article 50, we will be stronger as a country if we are tolerant and respectful of our differences, and if we all pull together to make sure our country is successful outside of the EU.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Labour Scrap Parking Improvements Budget - To Pay For New Town Hall

Boswell Road in Tilgate where the Conservatives provided more parking spaces  

One of my biggest gripes in politics is seeing the hypocrisy of those who say one thing and then do the opposite, and in doing so, not only hiding information but also misleading the public. This is what I believe happened at last month’s full council meeting at Crawley Borough Council.
In May last year, the Crawley Borough Council elections saw the Labour Administration re-elected. This was very much on the back of a parking petition that Labour circulated in marginal wards such as Southgate, Gossops Green and Tilgate, although they masqueraded it as coming from the community rather than what it really was - an overtly political petition.
Added to this, Labour’s election leaflets claimed that neighbourhood parking problems in Crawley were all the fault of the Conservatives and how only Labour could be trusted to deal with it. This was of course all nonsense, but in the same way that fake news can gain currency when people are frustrated about something, I believe Labour’s disingenuous narrative did resonate and ultimately helped Labour to retain political control of the council.
Nine months later at last week’s full council meeting, the following sequence of events unfolded. Firstly we had the budget agenda item. This contained the capital programme of infrastructure investment, which includes the Council’s long-standing annual budget for neighbourhood parking improvements. This was cynically passed by Labour, full in the knowledge of what was coming next.
We then had an agenda item about whether to proceed with a new town hall in which the detailed paperwork for it was not allowed to be seen by the public. Buried within this paperwork was that the £1.247 million that had just been approved for neighbourhood parking improvements in the budget as usual, was secretly being scrapped, with it all going towards the new town hall instead! The Conservative Group moved an amendment to try and save the parking improvements budget but to no avail as Labour’s Councillors voted us down.
In contrast, the Conservatives in Crawley are pledged to not only reintroduce the parking improvements programme - but to expand it. We also have a range of polices to help address parking problems in Crawley whereas Labour's 'policy' is to just blame the County Council because that is Conservative-run. 
There is a view among some Labour Councillors in Crawley that if you make life difficult enough for motorists, that we will all get on our bikes instead. I am all for encouraging cycling but as a Conservative I believe in people having a choice and not being dictated to, and I certainly don't believe in punishing people for wanting to own a car and to be able to park it near their own home.      


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Crawley Town Centre Has A Bright Future

Queens Square in February 2017
Nothing says more about a town than its centre. It is the place that brings people together from across all its neighbourhoods, as well as from nearby towns and villages. The centre is a town’s heart and will be the part of town that most residents and visitors will know, and rightly or wrongly, it will be the place that determines the view of many people of the town in its entirety. Put simply, town centres matter.
It is well documented how town centres have changed in recent years, most noticeably because of the huge increase in online shopping, which has seen many towns with shop vacancies at over 10%, with the need to diversify to leisure uses and housing as well as retail, in order to keep town centres vibrant and successful. This is something that we have done very well in Crawley as well as being able to attract new retailers to our town centre.
The Conservative Government’s changes to planning laws have enabled town centre office blocks that were empty for many years and would have remained so, to be transformed into new flats. We’re seeing much of this in Crawley and having people living in the town centre is helping to support both the shops and leisure facilities we have.
I have seen Crawley town centre change much over the last 25 years. Much of that change has been positive although not all of it has. I can appreciate that on a cold dreary day in February with all the building work going on in Queens Square, that our town centre will not be looking its best. However, we won’t look back once the months of improvement works are completed later this year.
The town centre also has the new Crawley Museum opening this summer and I am looking forward to the station gateway scheme that will transform the area around Crawley Train Station, including the ugly Overline House building being demolished and replaced with much needed housing.  We still have challenges but I am very confident that Crawley town centre has a bright future ahead.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Welcome Defence Investment In Crawley

I was very pleased to see that part of the £410million RAF military transport contract has been awarded to defence contractor Thales, which has a major site at Manor Royal here in Crawley. This contract is a further boost for our local economy and is further evidence that Crawley continues to prosper after the Brexit vote. This contract is a sign of the Conservative government investing in our Armed Forces, in the UK defence industry and in Crawley. In stark contrast, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour councillors at Crawley Town Hall have an ongoing boycott against the British Defence Industry, including disgracefully against companies here in Crawley.

Defence is one industry where Britain excels on the global stage but there are many others as well as some where our potential is not yet met but where freeing ourselves of the European Union’s shackles will create major global opportunities for us. With the formal triggering of Article 50 due in the next few weeks, these are exciting times for the UK.

While we are leaving the European Union we are not leaving Europe, but we are going to reach out to the rest of the world and so far the signs look excellent. Last week it was announced that New Zealand is very keen to have a free-trade agreement with the UK as soon as possible. I am very confident that this is just a sign of things to come. The United States appears to have changed their position with the new incoming administration no longer relegating the UK to the “back of the queue” when it comes to a trade deal, but moving us to the front.
We have a unique place and position in the world with our unmatched historical and cultural links across the globe, as well the global language being our own. This includes with the growing and emerging countries of the Commonwealth in Africa and Asia such as India. I view the UK as a truly global nation and Crawley’s proximity to London and having Gatwick here makes us very well placed to prosper as Britain booms post-Brexit.