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.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Have a Happy and Peaceful Christmas

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about Christmas.
I was struck by the recent passing of Greg Lake, who sadly died on the 7th of December, just a couple of weeks before Christmas. I wasn’t familiar with his other music but I did know his famous Christmas hit of 1975, I Believe in Father Christmas.  Although this song is often categorised as a Christmas song, this was not his intention. He said that he wrote the song in protest at the commercialisation of Christmas. This was 41 years ago and nowadays I barely hear anyone mention Christmas being too commercialised because it now just seems to be accepted. If anything, the media’s measure of the success of any Christmas seems based on how busy the shops are and how much they sell.

The Christmas build-up is of course a very important time for retailers for which many jobs rely on, but it isn’t the true meaning of Christmas. I was curious to see what the internet makes of Christmas so I did a Google search of the word “Christmas”. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the first entry was Wikipedia which gives the following explanation: “ Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration”.

That sums it up brilliantly and while recognising that cultural and secular themes and traditions have crept into how we celebrate Christmas; I believe that we should never lose sight of what Christmas is really about. Once we think about how Jesus lived his life, the Christmas themes such as giving, sharing, caring, and spreading joy become obvious.

I find myself becoming increasingly grateful each Christmas, because I’m in a warm home in a safe environment, with enough to eat and no major worries. Compared to millions across our world, most of us here are very fortunate so as well as thinking of those less fortunate, I see Christmas as a time to be grateful. I wish all readers of the Crawley Observer a very happy and peaceful Christmas.         

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Make Thursday Our Independence Day - VOTE LEAVE

This week is my final Crawley Observer column before the referendum. As I post this in the final minutes of the 22nd of June, I would be very surprised if Tilgate and Furnace Green did not vote for Leave. I've had a great reception as I have been going around campaigning for Leave. I also think Crawley and West Sussex will vote for Leave. But will the UK as a whole? The next 48 hours will not be forgotten in a hurry. 

 As I write this column on Sunday evening while watching Switzerland (non-EU) v France (EU) in the European Championships, I am wondering what this week will bring and how exactly the EU referendum is going to pan out. As I see it, from this week onwards there will be four parts to the referendum and the outcomes resulting from it.

The first part will be the media frenzy approaching polling day. There will be claim and counter-claim from both sides and while I support the Leave campaign, I do not agree with everything they have said. However, the ‘Project Fear’ tactics from the Remain campaign have been deplorable. This will reach fever pitch this week and goodness knows what they will trott out in the final days before the vote.
The second part is the vote itself. I think it more likely than not that Crawley will return a Leave vote, but if it doesn’t, then I can’t see Leave winning nationally if Crawley votes for Remain. I can however see either Leave or Remain winning nationally if Crawley votes for Leave. Nationally, it feels very close so I hope the turnout is high to give this election the biggest possible mandate.

The third part will be the immediate aftermath after the result. I think it very likely that whatever the result, there will be no status quo. We will be in a whole new political world and what this will look like will be anyone’s guess. As I wrote last week, when voting we should take a long-term view and not decide our vote based on the possible immediate aftermath of the vote.
Finally there will the long-term outcomes. This is where it really matters and I am confident the UK will have a better global future outside of the EU while still working with our European and EU neighbours. However, if we vote to stay, we will be trapped in an increasingly undemocratic political organisation that bullies and threatens those who dare to disagree with it. This is our only chance to leave and we should seize it.