Friday, 29 August 2014

My Statement Following The Resignation Of Crawley's Only UKIP Councillor

"UKIP have a very poor record generally as elected representatives. I publicly called for Karl Williamson to resign in February as I and many other councillors felt that since he became a UKIP Councillor, he hadn't been performing the role of a councillor for some time. He refused.

Had he resigned in April, a by-election could have been held at the same time as the existing election in May at no extra cost to the taxpayer. This is what I wanted to happen. If a by-election were now to happen, it would take place in October and the elected councillor would serve less than seven months before their election came up again.

When there are already two existing councillors for Southgate, residents would rightly question whether the Council spending several thousand pounds of taxpayers money was the right thing to do when the seat comes up again in less than seven month’s time."

The Chairman of what remains of Crawley UKIP, disgraced former Conservative Lee Gilroy of reported £42,000 of unpaid County Court Judgements fame, has since said to the Crawley Observer that I know that UKIP would be second in any by-election and the Conservatives third. Really? As ever, he is all bluster and no facts. This is the result on May the 22nd this year when he as the UKIP candidate came third despite the benefit to UKIP of the European elections on the same day.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Crawley Observer Column 27th August 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column I have written about UK foreign aid. I feel strongly about this and find it sad when UKIP/BNP make cheap political points calling for all foreign aid to stop, effectively saying that we as a wealthy country should sit back and allow people abroad to die from preventable diseases.

UK airdrops helping people in a desperate situation in Iraq
"A year ago, a column in this paper criticised government spending on foreign aid and called for it to stop. I believe Crawley is more generous than that and that our international aid is not only the right thing to do, it is good for Britain too.

One of the many ways I am proud to be British is our nation’s generosity to those abroad who are nowhere near as fortunate as us. This year, the UK achieved the UN’s international foreign aid target of 0.7% of national income. Over the last couple of weeks, seeing British aid being delivered by the RAF to help people in dire need in Iraq has made me immensely proud.
Foreign aid accounts for just 1.4% of total government spending. There is always potential for any government spending to be poor value and it is right to challenge and question, but finding one example of wasteful government spending does not mean we should stop all spending in that department. If a piece of equipment in a hospital functions poorly and is not value for money, no one suggests stopping all NHS spending. The same principle applies to foreign aid which shouldn’t stop if one bad example is found by critics.

Save the Children have published figures as to what is achieved for children with UK aid. In 2012 it prevented 2.7 million mothers and children from going hungry, it vaccinated 12 million children against deadly diseases and supported over five million children to go to school. More widely, our aid not only helps with immediate crises; it brings longer-term benefits such as education, infrastructure projects and enables people to better help themselves.
The UK is truly a global nation and over the last few years, our country has become increasingly respected and our overseas trade and ties have strengthened. Our foreign aid gives us influence to improve human rights and advance democracy. I believe that over the next few years, our generosity as a nation will be increasingly rewarded through trade deals and access to markets, which ultimately helps us here at home." 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Crawley Labour's "Priority" Pledge on Fly-tipping In Tatters

Six weeks ago when I first saw this Council press release saying that dealing with fly-tipping was a priority for the new Labour Administration at Crawley Borough Council, it crossed my mind that this was an attempt to be seen to be saying the right things. Don’t get me wrong, I am very supportive of attempts to deal with this anti-social and criminal behaviour, but the implication that somehow under the Conservatives, Crawley Council wasn’t trying to deal with the problem is of course wrong. If it was that easy, we would have cracked it a long time ago.

Crawley Labour's 'crackdown' on fly-tipping in Crawley town centre... 
I took this picture on Friday afternoon in The Boulevard in Crawley town centre and then reported it to the Council. This is the same road where Crawley Town Hall is located and this fly-tipping is literally a few hundred feet from the town hall. I was also able to establish that this rubbish had been dumped in the heart of Crawley town centre since at least Wednesday.
Six weeks after the Labour Council’s big press release, for such a large amount of fly-tipping to sit rotting so close to the town hall for three days (so far) clearly shows that Labour are all talk and no action on the issues that matter to Crawley residents.          

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Crawley Observer Column 20th August 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column which is below the picture, I have written about West Sussex County Council's Better Roads Programme. Unlike Labour Councillors in Crawley who sit around moaning about our roads and trying to make political capital out of it, I get on and do something about it.

"This summer, I’m sure many readers will have noticed road resurfacing or surface dressing treatment taking place in Crawley. The increase in works to improve our roads is part of the £30 million Better Roads that West Sussex County Council is implementing across the entire County over two years.
The Better Roads Programme came about after successive cold winters and the record cold spring of 2013 that had advanced the deterioration of the road network. In recognising the need for comprehensive action, the County Council set up a Working Group last summer to access the scale of the problem and how best to deal with it.

I was Crawley’s representative on this Working Group and I spent much time working on it as I fully recognised the importance of this issue to Crawley residents and businesses. I could have taken the easy option that some Councillors do, by having my picture taken next to a pot hole and trying to gain political capital in the local press, but I was determined to achieve a real solution and was happy to invest my time in doing that.

I was pleased to make the case for major investment to improve the general overall condition of our road network that will reduce the need for future potholes repairs. This is all on top of the existing maintenance budget. The list of Crawley roads being treated is far too long to list here but I will list five major Crawley roads that are to be resurfaced or surfaced-dressed during this summer and autumn.

·       Southgate Avenue

·       London Road (northbound)

·       Buckswood Drive

·       Crawley Avenue (eastbound)

·       Ifield Avenue

There have been some deliberately misleading claims made in some quarters claiming that Crawley does not receive as much road funding as other parts of West Sussex. This is simply not true and given our traffic volumes, it is not surprising that Crawley receives more funding per mile of road network than the rest of West Sussex. My colleagues and I will continue to constructively make the case to carry on improving our roads."

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Voting UKIP Gets You Labour In Crawley

It is well-known that voting UKIP (a party that doesn’t have a single MP and has never elected a single Councillor in Crawley - and never will) enables Labour to prosper. This happened this year in Crawley when Labour took control of Crawley Borough Council with just over a third of the votes across the town.

How Crawley voted in the 2014 local elections 

As you can see, Crawley has a right-of-centre absolute majority. The UKIP vote was inflated because of the European Elections at the same time and obviously it will hugely reduce next year, but it is still very clear that voting UKIP will get you Labour in what is (and always has been) a two-horse race in Crawley.

I guess voting UKIP is fine if you want Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, a Crawley Labour MP who would be out of his depth, reckless borrowing and spending, and to have no say on our future membership of the European Union, but I’d like David Cameron as PM, Henry Smith as our MP, a sound economy and for the British people to decide their own future in Europe.

If just one in nine of those who voted UKIP in 2014 had voted Conservative, the Conservatives would have won the most votes in Crawley this year. Had two in three done so, the Conservatives would have had an absolute majority of over 50% of the vote. The message is very clear in Crawley - vote UKIP get Labour or vote Conservative and get Conservative. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Crawley Observer Column 13th August 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column which is below the picture, I have written about Labour's Tenant Tax and how Crawley Labour Councillors have steadfastly refused to rule out introducing it for Crawley's private sector housing tenants.

"At last month’s Crawley Borough Council Full Council meeting, the Conservative Group tabled a Notice of Motion that sought to eliminate the threat of a Council-initiated tenant tax on Crawley’s private-sector housing tenants. We are rightly concerned that Crawley’s Labour Administration may copy Croydon Borough Council, which is the nearest Labour-controlled Council to Crawley, in planning to introduce a licensing scheme on privately rented properties that would typically cost £200 a year per rented home.
It was an insightful spectacle to see Labour Councillors vigorously defending their Croydon comrades and saying that £200 wouldn’t be very much for Crawley tenants to pay on top of their rents, while claiming they had no plans at present to introduce it here. Caught like a startled rabbit in car headlights, they were floundering all over the place in debate and I felt reminded of the saying “one doth protest too much”. Suspicions are likely to continue as Labour voted en-bloc against this opportunity to rule out a tax on tenants.

A licensing scheme isn’t technically a tax but its effect would be the same as tenants would be paying more. By contrast, Labour’s claims of a ‘bedroom tax’ being a tax is bogus as it is actually a reduction of housing benefit payment to benefit claimants in social-rented housing who have spare bedrooms. Arguably, the real ‘bedroom tax’ is Labour plans to reverse this benefits reduction so that all tax-payers will pay increased amounts for people on benefits to have spare and empty bedrooms. Private-sector tenants would have a double whammy of paying more tax for this as well as a tax of their own.       
It was a shame that this opportunity to bring reassurance to Crawley’s private sector housing tenants was dismissed but I believe we were right to shine a light on Labour’s tenant tax and that we have succeeded in making it harder for it to be introduced in Crawley. Private sector housing tenants in Crawley should not be viewed as a soft and easy target to tax and they now know which party is standing up for them."             

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Crawley Observer Column 6th August 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column which is below the photo, I have written about Crawley's parks and gardens following the Green Flag awards recently received. While I may be the Councillor who represents the area covering all of Tilgate Park and it is of course my favourite, we have many other excellent parks and gardens in and around Crawley.

Tilgate Park on the Winter Solstice in 2009 
"Last week I was pleased to see that four local parks and gardens were awarded Green Flag status for a further year. The Green Flag Award Scheme recognises and rewards the best green spaces across the UK. This year, a record number of awards were made with 1476 parks and green spaces awarded a Green Flag or a Green Flag Community Award. 139 Green Flags were awarded within the South-East region and like in previous years, four are local to us right here in Crawley.
Our four local winners were Tilgate Park, Buchan Country Park, Goffs Park and the Memorial Gardens. To put this in perspective as to how well we are doing, the nearest other Green Flag winners are Priory Park in Reigate and Beech Hurst Gardens in Haywards Heath. The towns of East Grinstead, Horsham and Redhill do not have any Green Flag winners.  

I believe most local people think our parks and green spaces is something that we have got right in Crawley. Summer is a time when they really do come into their own. In this week as we commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, it is worth noting that the Heroes Walk in the Memorial Gardens is looking splendid and has been attracting much interest.
The majority of Crawley residents live within a mile or two of our Green Flag parks or our other popular local parks and open spaces such as Worth Park. I always enjoy seeing people appreciating our local parks which are truly an asset and a credit to our town. Up until June, I was the Cabinet Member at Crawley Borough Council who had responsibility for the Council’s parks and I left the post happy in the knowledge that Crawley’s parks are better and more popular than ever."

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Crawley Observer Column 30th July 2014

This week in the Crawley Observer, below the picture, I have written about the unpleasant and arguably taboo to discuss subject of FGM. This isn't the usual natural territory that I find easy to write about but as a society locally, nationally and globally, we should not shy away from voicing how just how unacceptable this is and that FGM must stop. I've provided two links. The first link is me raising this at last week's County Council Full Council meeting and the second link is to the Girl Summit Pledge page.

Poster for the Girl Summit 2014
"Last week saw the hosting of the international Girl Summit in London that was co-hosted by the UK Government and Unicef. The summit aims to kickstart a global movement to end the appalling practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), as well as child-marriage, forced marriage and early marriage - all within a generation.

This is not a pleasant issue to discuss but we would be wrong to ignore it. Globally, the statistics are shocking as it is believed that at least 30 million girls will be at risk of FGM over the next decade with 20,000 potentially at risk in the UK every year. In developing countries, one in three girls is married by the age of 18, with some married as young as eight. They are more likely to stay poor and never be educated which in turn makes FGM more likely. It is a vicious cycle that needs breaking.

On the day of the summit, the Government announced a series of measures including toughening up the laws on this illegal practice and the creation of a fund to help with prevention. This is good news and I was also pleased that the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner attended the summit.
Last Friday, at the Full Council meeting of West Sussex County, I raised the summit and the horrific practice of FGM with the Leader of the County Council. I asked for assurance that training is given to staff in Children’s Services and Education to help identify victims and those at risk of becoming victims. I was reassured that this was the case and learned there had been six FGM referrals to Social Services so far this year in West Sussex.

Increasing awareness and getting increased acceptance that this ‘tradition’ is wholly unacceptable is a way forward. People can show their support by signing the Girl Summit pledge via Twitter or Facebook. The pledge page comes up first if you search online for “Girl Summit pledge”. I hope many of you reading this will join me and the Leader of the County Council in signing."

Crawley Labour refuse to rule out the Tenant Tax in Crawley

At last week's Full Council meeting, Labour Councillors looked very uncomfortable throughout. In debate on this item in particular, they floundered all over the place as they defended Croydon Labour's plans to introduce a tax on tenants while refusing to say what they planned in Crawley. Our Conservative Group press release is below the picture.

Crawley Labour refuse to rule out taxing private-sector housing tenants

"Crawley’s Conservative councillors have warned that the Council’s new Labour administration has refused to rule out introducing additional costs for the town’s private sector housing tenants in the form of a Tenant Tax.
A Conservative Notice of Motion at last week’s Full Council meeting called upon the Council not to introduce a Licensing Scheme for private rented properties, similar to the one which the new Labour administration at Croydon Borough Council is proposing. Croydon is the nearest Labour Council to Crawley.  

Councillor Richard Burrett, the Conservatives’ Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing, said “The indications are that the costs of the scheme Labour are proposing in Croydon could cost each tenant household £200 a year. This is the last thing hard-pressed tenants in Crawley need, which makes it all the more disappointing that Labour councillors voted down our motion, which would have brought reassurance to Crawley’s tenants.”
Conservative Group Leader Councillor Duncan Crow added “In defending Labour’s Tenant Tax, one Labour councillor said in debate that £200 wasn’t very much for tenants to pay in comparison to the rents they are paying. For Labour to say this and to vote against our motion feels very much like they have designs to follow Croydon's Labour Group in planning to tax tenants as an easy source of income. Conservative councillors are on the side of tenants and we will resist any Labour attempts to introduce the Tenant Tax in Crawley.”