Friday, 27 June 2014

Crawley Observer Column 25th June 2014

This week I have written about Armed Forces Day in my Crawley Observer Column, which is below in blue. I was pleased to be at the flag raising at Crawley Town Hall on Monday morning of the Armed Forces Flag, and then to see at County Hall in Chichester that it is also flying there all week too. Hopefully the rain will hold off for Saturday morning. The photo is one I took in June 2011 when the Princess of Wales Regiment had a homecoming march in Crawley.

Princess of Wales Regiment in Crawley High Street - June 2011

"This coming Saturday the 28th June is Armed Forces Day.  Across the UK, events will be taking place to mark the day with the national event taking place in Stirling. Formally known as Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day is increasingly becoming a fixture of British life that unites the nation.      
The reasons why Armed Forces Day was established are very laudable. It is absolutely right to help raise public awareness of the invaluable contribution made to our country, both by those who currently serve and those who have previously served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. I also very much welcome the opportunity for the nation to be able to show support for the men and women who make up our Armed Forces community.

Here in Crawley, our own event will be in Queens Square on Saturday from 10am until 12.30pm. There will be displays and demonstrations from cadets, serving troops and from veterans. There are also going to be activities such as a climbing wall, obstacle course and camouflage face painting. I very much look forward to attending.
The last few years have seen a strengthening of Crawley’s links with the Armed Forces. Three years ago this month, I was pleased to attend the homecoming march through the town centre of 250 soldiers from The Princess of Wales Regiment who had recently returned from Afghanistan.

At Crawley Borough Council, we ensured that members of the Armed Forces, whose work takes them out of the area, are not disadvantaged by local connection rules governing the allocation of social housing. Last year, we followed on from West Sussex County Council in 2012, in signing the Armed Forces Community Covenant, which encourages support for the Armed Forces Community who work and reside in Crawley. For both Crawley Borough Council and West Sussex County Council, it presents an opportunity to bring knowledge, experience and expertise to bear on the provision of help, advice and services to members of our Armed Forces Community when they need it - a community who is always there when their country needs them." 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Crawley Observer Column 18th June 2014

Below in blue is my column in this week's Crawley Observer. Unfortunately my concerns about how the Labour Council are going to operate are proving correct. Just today, their leader publicly said there would be no more outsourcing. To refuse to even consider looking at this as an option in future, regardless of potential merit, is a very dogmatic decision to take. Labour keep saying they want the town hall to be more open but it is increasingly only open to socialist ideology and to those wearing a red rosette. For the rest of Crawley, Labour is creating a closed-shop town hall.

Ed Miliband approving of Crawley Labour's 'open' town hall

"Last Friday evening was the Crawley Borough Council Annual Council meeting. It was all-change as Labour officially took over control with a new Leader and Cabinet appointed. It was also my first main meeting as Leader of the Opposition although I suspect Holland’s 5-1 World Cup thrashing of Spain that I missed, was probably a more entertaining spectacle.
Last week I wrote about my concerns for this meeting and sadly I was proven to be correct. I highlighted the inclusiveness of my own Conservatives during our eight years of running the Council and always giving some committee chairs or vice-chairs to opposition members. However, last Friday saw an unprecedented move in Crawley as Labour took all 18 out of the 18 most senior positions on the Council despite only having 20 Councillors out of 37.

Of most concern was that both the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee were appointed from the controlling Labour group. This is almost unheard of at any other Council where there is a large opposition and goes against the sound advice of the highly respected Local Government Association and the Centre for Public Scrutiny who both say having an opposition Chair or Vice-Chair is best practice. Good scrutiny is important for the good running of any Council but sadly Labour put narrow party interest before the wider interests of both the Council and of Crawley.
All new Administrations deserve a honeymoon, but prior to this changeover meeting we had already seen two very concerning intentions stated by Labour. Firstly they appear to have thrown in the towel on major town centre regeneration. Secondly they made reckless statements that risk creating a culture of non-payment of rent for those on housing benefit who live in Council homes with spare bedrooms. Labour’s shockingly poor decision on Council Scrutiny was made just ten minutes after they officially took control. For me this was ‘three strikes and you’re out’ and after just ten minutes of being in control, Labour’s honeymoon was over."

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Crawley Observer Column 11th June 2014

This Friday evening, Labour exercise their first taste of real power at Crawley Borough Council in eight years. So far the omens are not good, given two indications of Council Leader-elect Cllr Peter Lamb that I've noticed.
1 - It appears Labour are lacking in aspiration and have thrown in the towel on major regeneration of Crawley town centre.
2 - Labour risk encouraging a non-payment culture among Council Tenants on Housing Benefit with spare bedrooms, who now pay their own spare room subsidy that other Council Tenants and all taxpayers were previously paying for them. This is because Labour say non-payment will never result in eviction. 
Below is my column in this week's Crawley Observer about Labour's first test in power this coming Friday evening.
New Labour Leader of Crawley Borough Council (far-left) 
This Friday the 13th will see the official changeover of the political control of Crawley Borough Council from Conservative to Labour at the Annual Full Council meeting. Notwithstanding the notoriety of the date, this meeting will be the first major test for both the new Labour administration and the new Conservative opposition as power changes hands.
For the Conservatives, while Labour only narrowly defeated us last month by 37% to 35%, we must be accepting of the town’s democratic verdict and be gracious in defeat. We will ensure a smooth transition of power, will face the future positively, and always be ready should the people of Crawley call upon us once again to run their local Council.

The test for Labour this Friday is far greater as they will be exercising their first taste of power in eight years. At Friday’s Annual Council meeting, Labour will decide the Chairmanships and Vice-Chairmanships of the Committees that carry out Council functions and of the Scrutiny committee which will examine Labour’s policies.
I remember this time eight years ago when political control of the Council last changed hands, from Labour to Conservative. I personally was the creator of our campaign slogan in 2006 of “A fresh new Council and everyone’s invited.” After 35 years of Labour over-dominance on Crawley Borough Council, we were determined to be inclusive; recognising that no one political party has 100% of the vote in Crawley. We gave Labour the Chair of the Development Control Committee, the Vice-Chair of Licensing and the Deputy Mayoralty. Being unafraid of close scrutiny of our policies, we also gave Labour the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee and the LibDems the Scrutiny Vice-Chair.

We called upon the experience and cross-party talents of the Council for the good of the Council and for the good of the town. With Labour now publicly claiming the town hall hasn’t been very open to others, Crawley will be watching closely to see if Labour serve the wider interests of Crawley or the narrow interests of the Labour Party in their appointments of the Council’s Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs."

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Better Roads for Tilgate & Furnace Green

Better Roads - coming to a road near you

In the final fortnight of my County Council re-election campaign last year, I put out a leaflet saying my number one priority was getting our local roads sorted out in Tilgate and Furnace Green. These were not idle words - I meant it.

In late April last year, we were still in the grip of the coldest spring ever recorded. A snowy March and freezing April had played havoc with our roads and exceptionally cold ground temperatures were stopping repairs from taking place.

We also had dozens of Brown’s Lorries going through Tilgate and Furnace Green every day to the golf driving range as well as to the railway embankment works via Norwich Road. We had two house building sites, one at Furnace Drive and another at Weirbrook.

There were the new streetlights in various stages of being installed in Furnace Green and also gas pipeline works digging up the roads in various places. There was a exceptionally large amount of heavy vehicles on our local roads and our aging local road network generally was looking muddy and crumbling. This was not exactly the ideal backdrop to seek re-election as a County Councillor.

Unfazed, I made the promise in my leaflet that my number one local priority was sorting out our local roads. Soon after my re-election, Weald Drive and Furnace Drive were patched and surface-dressed. That was always planned but had been held up by the cold weather.

The real difference came last summer. Unlike some Councillors from other parties who sit around complaining and who deliberately falsely claimed in a local newspaper that Crawley gets less Highway funding than Chichester, I was determined to actually help solve the problem.
Therefore, I spent a significant amount of time working with a group of County Councillors from elsewhere in West Sussex on our shared aspiration of getting our roads in West Sussex to a condition where the need to fill potholes becomes minimal - reversing a trend going the other way.
We came up with the Better Roads Programme. This two-year £30 million of investment is on top of the annual £8.5 million programme. This work started in April, is being done is phases and is picking up a pace now summer is here.

Today I received notification that the following Crawley roads will be surfaced-dressed in the next few weeks with road closures needed. Residents will be informed exactly when it is happening. In green is Furnace Green and in blue is Tilgate. There will be the resurfacing programme to come which includes Southgate Avenue and Haslett Avenue East.

We have brought in the Better Roads Programme without putting up Council Tax for a fourth successive year. 

Length of Road in Crawley
Length of Closure
Arden Road
From its junction with Furnace Drive to its junction with The Glade
Ashburnham Road
From its junction with Weald drive to its junction with Warnham Road 
Throughout its entire length
From its junction with Forest View to its junction with Weirbrook
Ringwood Close
Throughout its entire length 
Sylvan Road
From its junction with Weald Drive to its junction with Furnace Drive 
From its junction with Weald Drive to its junction with Greenacres
Dickens Road
Throughout its entire length 
Gresham Walk
Throughout its entire length 
Oxford Road
From its junction with Winchester Road to its junction with Worcester Road
Shackleton Road
From its junction with Tilgate Way to its junction with Loppets Road
Winchester Road
Throughout its entire length
Ditchling Hill
Throughout its entire length
Throughout its entire length
Forester Road
From its junction with Mason Road to its junction with Southgate Drive.
Throughout its entire length
Gasson Wood Road
From its junction with Acturus Road to the Breezehurst Drive roundabout
Grattons Drive
From its junction with Worth Park Avenue to its junction with St Catherines Road
Harewood Close
Throughout its entire length
Kingscote Hill
Throughout its entire length
From its junction with Grafton Drive to its junction with Milton Mount Avenue
Maiden Lane
From its junction with Stagelands to its junction with Langley Drive
Mill Road
From its junction with The Birches to its junction with New Street
The Millbank
Throughout its entire length
Park Way
From its junction with Chaucer Road to its junction with St Marys Drive
Pine Close
Throughout its entire length
Salvington Road
Throughout its entire length
Throughout its entire length
Warren Drive
From its junction with Ifield Avenue to its junction with Ifield Drive
Waterfield Gardens
Throughout its entire length

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Crawley Observer Column 4th June 2014

Much has changed since last month. Labour won control of Crawley Borough Council with a majority of 3 and I have become the Leader of the Conservative group on the Council. While naturally disappointed to have lost control of the Council, I am enjoying getting stuck in to my new role. Anyone who thinks the Conservatives are a spent force on Crawley Borough Council had better think again - we can and we will stand up for Crawley. Below is my first Leader's column in this week's Crawley Observer.
Picture used by Crawley News online this week
"A new era is starting at Crawley Town Hall and I congratulate Labour on their local election success. Across Crawley, Labour’s 37% of the vote to the Conservative’s 35% showed how politically close our town is between the two main parties.

Our eight years of Crawley Conservatives running the Town Hall brought Crawley Borough Council into the 21st Century. I am proud to have served on the Council’s Cabinet for this entire period, in which we transformed a wasteful, archaic and inward-looking former Labour Council, into a modern and customer-focused Conservative Council where providing quality services and value for money became embedded in the Council’s culture.

Achievements originating from our time in office will continue to appear in future years. Last week, we selected in partnership with West Sussex County Council, the company to deliver our joint £3 million Queens Square regeneration. This summer, we’ll see the rolling-out of household wheeled bins for non-recyclable waste across Crawley and we’ll also see the opening of a free-to-use outdoor gym in Tilgate Park.

I look forward to see the completion of the restoration of Worth Park, the community improvements in Ifield West, the de-silting of Ifield Mill Pond, the on-going modernisation of our Children’s Play Areas and a new town centre Crawley Museum. These are all examples where Crawley’s Conservative Council of 2006 - 2014 will continue to deliver for Crawley long after it has left office.
Our several million Pounds worth of efficiency savings leaves a golden legacy for the incoming Labour Administration. Perversely, had Labour been successful in stopping our savings that they spent the last eight years opposing, they would not have such a financially sound and fit-for-purpose Council to run now.

We will assist the new Labour Council wherever they carry on our good work in seeking to work for the entire town. However, if Labour reverts back to the bad old days of a wasteful left-wing Council not representing the entire town, then the people of Crawley can rest assured that our new Conservative opposition will not let them get away with it."