Sunday, 28 September 2014

What Matters To You In West Sussex

West Sussex County Council wants to hear from residents as to what your priorities are for the services we provide. In order for it to accurately reflect West Sussex, we need more younger people and more people from Crawley to take part. The findings with help inform County Councillors in setting the service  priorities and budget for the next financial year. This is an opportunity to help shape services so please do take part.  


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Crawley Observer Column 24th September 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column (below the graph) I have welcomed last week's falling unemployment figures and questioned where the huge extra workforce needed as a result of a second runway at Gatwick would come from, given that the wider area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the UK?
"I welcome last week’s unemployment figures showing another large fall. Unemployment is falling towards its long-term average which historically in Crawley and our surrounding areas is very low.  Plan A is working, as indeed are a record number of people in the UK.
Being out-of-work is awful and one person unemployed is one too many. Sadly, even at the peak of the last economic boom in the mid-2000s, the broader unemployment count did not fall below 1.5 million. Thankfully, our Conservative-led government is getting people back to work and delivering the highest economic growth out of all the advanced industrialised nations.

Every Labour government has left office with higher unemployment than when it took office. High unemployment from 2010 is rapidly falling and our region is now doing very well. Crawley’s unemployment has fallen to 1.5% (1,080 people) and two of our neighbours (Mid-Sussex and Mole Valley) are among the very lowest in the entire country at 0.6%. West Sussex as a whole is 1.1% (5,581 people) and Surrey is 0.8% (5,575 people).
I see one argument above all else used to justify support for a potential second runway at Gatwick Airport, this being that “we need the jobs”. To me, this feels like a wholly uninformed and false argument that hasn’t been researched. Those saying this may be thinking in terms of the last recession rather than looking at the longer-term unemployment average which for our area is very low.

Gatwick Airport’s own pro-second runway propaganda claims that 120,000 jobs will be brought to the region with a second runway. I’d estimate that over 85%+ of Gatwick’s workforce live in West Sussex and Surrey. With unemployment in both counties totalling 11,000 (under 1%) and rapidly falling; it is obvious that a second runway would result in a huge inward migration of people (and their families) moving in from outside, all of whom will need housing. We are already struggling to meet existing housing needs so where would they all live? Would any green space be safe from development and how much more congestion could our roads and railways take?"    

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Free Dog Microchipping This Saturday In Tilgate

Fisherman's car park Saturday noon - 4pm 27th September   

Another free dog microchipping day will take place this weekend. Crawley Borough Council, supported by the Dogs Trust, has already made sure nearly 250 more of the town’s furry four-legged friends can be returned home more easily thanks to the free service.
It’s hoped numbers will leap up after the event at Tilgate Park this Saturday (27 September). Microchipping dogs will be compulsory by 2016 when a new law is introduced. The council’s Community Wardens, trained in dog handling and microchipping, will also be on hand to offer responsible dog ownership advice.
Currently all dogs must have a name tag but these can easily come off or get lost, microchips are more secure and can hold all sorts of information, including details of the legal owner. If a dog is found straying, vets, local authorities, dog wardens and the police can easily scan their microchip, establish who the dog belongs to and quickly return them to their owners.
The last event in Southgate was a great success with 100 dogs microchipped in just a few hours. One of the Community Wardens’ key responsibilities is to deal with straying dogs and work to reunite owners and lost pets – a task made much easier if a microchip can be used. The event will be held between 12 noon and 4pm on Saturday 27 September in the Fisherman’s car-park.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Labour's Homeowner Tax

I didn’t see Ed Miliband’s Labour party conference leader’s speech yesterday although from all accounts I didn’t miss very much. Apparently he forgot to make reference to the deficit or immigration but he didn’t forget to announce yet another new tax by Labour. This time it is the Homeowner Tax.

We know that deep down, Labour are against aspiration and against people (other than them) owning their own homes and this new tax proves that. Of course, they are saying only for properties worth more than £2 million but I ask you, can you think of any new tax that has been introduced that has not extended its reach as to who it hits once the tax takes effect? I can easily see a so called ‘mansion’ tax becoming a detached house tax, then a semi-detached house tax, then a house tax, and ultimately a homeowner tax.

Quite simply, the values it applies to will reduce once the concept of the tax has been implemented and accepted. The threshold will certainly never go up so that it applies to fewer properties; it will only ever go one way and that is down. The rate they charge is also only likely to go one way, that being upwards. Proposed to be levied at 1% a year, this tax would see a relatively modest £200,000 home paying £2,000 a year. You can sign the petition by clicking on the bottom picture.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Crawley Observer Column 17th September 2014

There is now just under 24 hours to save our United Kingdom from the cynically dishonest Alex Salmond and his separatist and often aggressive nationalist party. This week in my Crawley Observer column (below the picture) I have written about one small aspect (out of many) that affects us here in England, that being our own identity if the bully-boy separatists win.
Stay with us Scotland!
"This week’s Scottish separation vote has implications for the entire UK and not just Scotland. Last week I wrote about my support for our United Kingdom. This week, before the outcome of the vote is known, I write about one aspect of the potential aftermath should Scotland vote to leave the UK, that aspect being English identity.

The UK is a complicated constitutional nation. Its four component parts are made up of two countries, a principality and a constitutional region. Geographical descriptions sometimes get confused with political descriptions with some people struggling to differentiate between Great Britain, United Kingdom and British Isles.

Within all these descriptions, we have our home country of England which in population terms is by far the largest part of the UK at 84%. This can lead to some confusion abroad, with some people believing that English and British are the same thing. I am proud to be both English and Scottish and of course very proud to be British. Within England we also have regional and city identities as well as to some degree, county and town identities. I am proud to have a Crawley and West Sussex identity although I am relaxed about how people choose to identify themselves.
Recent years have seen a rise in Scottish nationalism as well as devolved democracy to the other three parts of the UK. If Scotland does vote to break away, where does this leave the English and our sense of identity within what remains of the UK? I support healthy English patriotism where we celebrate our identity and culture and if we don’t, it risks being hijacked by the far-right.

Sadly, there is a perception that being proud to be English has been discouraged over the last couple of decades while other UK nations have had patriotism encouraged. I fear a potential rise in unhealthy English nationalism should Scotland break away, fuelled by resentment that we have been viewed as not being good enough to be with. Let’s hope my concerns prove unfounded, or better still, that Scotland votes to stay as part of the UK." 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Crawley Observer Column 10th September 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column, printed on Wednesday 10th of September, I have written about the impending Scottish separation vote. By coincidence, my Labour counterpart has written about exactly the same subject in his column on the same page in this week's Crawley Observer. While I welcome his support for the United Kingdom, readers will note that while I put my country before politics in my column, he can't help but bring (anti-Conservative) politics into his. I also manage to get the day of the vote right and not a week early... My column is below the picture and the Crawley Labour leader's is in red italics below mine.

"On Thursday the 18th of September, an election takes place that could potentially create the biggest constitutional change in our country for over 300 years. It is an election that involves less than 10% of the UK’s population but one that could have implications for all of us.        

The Scottish referendum on independence is self-determination and democracy in action which I view as healthy. However, the rest of us in the UK don’t get a say even if we are Scottish but living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Here in Crawley, there will be plenty of Scots denied a say on Scotland’s future in the UK.
As an island nation, I find it incomprehensible that the northern third of our island could suddenly become a foreign country instead of a member of our United Kingdom. With myself being part-Scottish as well as English, I personally find the possibility of my heritage splitting apart somewhat disconcerting.

There are more practical reasons for all of us to maintain the Union than geography and sentiment. The No Campaign is known as “Better Together”. They have an excellent website that sets out the case for maintaining the Union and I would urge anyone interested to take a look. For me, as well as our shared identity, the main areas of concern for the entire UK are the economy, defence, the Pound, and government spending and debt. Indeed, there is already speculation of a possible run on the Pound and stock market should a Yes vote happen.
Some may wonder why I should care so much as Scotland leaving the Union makes it much easier for the Conservatives to win general elections for what remains of the UK. I believe it is wrong to put perceived electoral gain ahead of what I believe is in the best collective interest of our countries. I urge anyone reading this with family and friends in Scotland to get in touch with them in this last week of the campaign, and to let them know we would dearly like our Scottish friends to stay together with us."

Crawley Labour Column:

"On Thursday, Scotland decides the future of the United Kingdom and it looks as though the result will be much closer than anyone anticipated.

Throughout the contest the ‘Yes’ campaign have made a number of statements which could be considered misleading, but what has been far more disappointing has been the failure of the ‘Better Together’ campaign to show a brighter future for Scotland in the UK.
Yet, Scotland’s issues aren’t noticeably different from those living in the rest of the UK. Scottish voters have been polled extensively over recent months and the issues which have kept coming up are much the same as those I hear from residents on the doorstep; they’re worried about the NHS, they want an economy with better job opportunities and which addresses the increasing gap between wages and the cost of living, and they’re concerned about what’s happening to the education system.
The recent narrowing of the polls says far more about what is going on in the UK as a whole than it does Scottish nationalism. If it continues to become harder for people to maintain their quality of life in the UK, if the country continues to become a less fair place and if we struggle to see things getting any better for the next generation, that affects residents in Crawley just as much as it does voters in Cumbernauld.
The SNP took control of the Scottish Government in 2007, yet despite being committed to holding a referendum on independence it wasn’t until their second term - with a Conservative Government securely embedded in Westminster - that they kicked off the campaign. I was in Scotland over the Summer and as one Scot put it to me: if you had the chance to get rid of the Tories forever, what would you do?
Ultimately, the UK Government’s inability to show that a united kingdom can be more than a place where cuts to services are coupled with tax cuts for millionaires may well cost us all. Depending upon what Scotland decides on Thursday, David Cameron may well go down in history as the Prime Minister who broke Britain."

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Crawley Observer Column 3rd September 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column which is below the picture, I have written about the new school year and welcomed the opening of Crawley's newest school, The Gatwick School, which opens this coming Monday the 8th of September.
Logo of The Gatwick School - Crawley's newest school 
"This week sees the start of the new school year. It is an exciting time for pupils and teachers alike, with the foundations being laid for a forthcoming year of learning and development. I do not underestimate the positive impact that schools can have both for our children and for society as a whole. Good schools are an enabler for social mobility and I doubt anyone argues against seeking to maximise the academic potential of every child.
Overall, the August exam results in Crawley schools were encouraging and heading in the right direction, with some schools having their best results ever. Historically in Crawley, academic attainment has not always been as high as we would like and this can limit the realisation of aspiration. As an elected representative of the Conservative party, I view both aspiration and attainment for our children as vitally important and I am always willing to do anything I can to support those involved in delivering education.

As far as education is concerned, my political view is simply not to bring political ideology as to how education is delivered. For me, what matters is what works and what is best for our children. As a Borough and County Councillor and as leader of one of the two political groups on the Borough Council, I view being supportive of our local schools as essential.
Therefore, I was staggered to read the Labour column in last week’s Observer where the leader of Crawley Borough Council was critical of the new Gatwick School before it has even opened. Being the local West Sussex County Councillor for the area where the school is located made these critical remarks worse.

While I accept it is fine to have a political view on the concept of Free Schools, I believe it is fundamentally wrong for a senior councillor to publicly undermine any local school. The Gatwick School is a valuable addition to education in Crawley, is offering parental choice and is helping with pressure on school places. As Crawley’s newest school, I wish them every success for the new academic year."

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Free School Meals For 25,000 Children In West Sussex

From today, up to 25,000 children in West Sussex will receive free school meals. I think this is a great move by the Coalition government, not least because the focus will be on healthy eating and the eating habits young children develop can stay with them for life. Child (and adult) obesity has got worse over the last couple of decades and this is a step in the right direction. Below the picture is today's press release issued by West Sussex County Council.

All infant aged children now get a free school meal. 
From this week around 25,000 pupils in reception classes and years one and two will be able to enjoy school meals for the first time, free of charge.

Every infant aged child is now able to receive free healthy and nutritious meals, thanks to a government initiative which could save parents over £300 per child annually.Schools are responsible for ordering the meals so there is no need for parents to worry.

West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Jeremy Hunt, said: “We’re delighted to be able to introduce these free meals for infant aged children. As well as saving parents money, having a healthy and nutritious meal can also help improve concentration in the classroom. The expansion of the infant and primary school meal service has also seen the creation of 250 new part-time jobs in the county, so the initiative is also having a positive effect on our local economy.”

Although parents don’t need to do anything for their children to receive the meals, they are being urged to take a few moments to check if they can unlock extra funding for their child’s school.

By filling in a simple form parents on certain benefits can ensure their school receives extra money called the pupil premium.The money is used to support their child at school and to help boost their achievements. Primary schools receive £1,300 each year for each eligible child for up to six years.

However, a child only becomes eligible by actually registering for free school meals. Because the meals for infant children are being provided automatically, and registration is not required, this could mean schools miss out on thousands of pounds.

You can find out more about the meals and whether you can unlock the extra funding by searching for ‘free school meals’ at or by emailing

Schools decide how best to spend the pupil premium fund. This could include helping pupils with their learning, contributions towards the cost of school trips or buying school equipment. From today, up to 25,000 children in West Sussex will receive a free school meal. .   

Monday, 1 September 2014

Henry Smith MP Backs Crawley's Newest Hotel

I do like this press release (below the picture) issued by our MP Henry Smith. In it, he highlights three great new additions to Crawley town centre, the employment opportunities they have brought and what it was like to have a leadership at Crawley Borough Council that had aspiration and vision for both our town centre and for Crawley as a whole.

Crawley's newest hotel - Travelodge Crawley
Henry Smith MP has visited the new Travelodge in Crawley town centre, to speak to staff working at the new hotel and to welcome the jobs it has brought to Crawley.

Henry said “It was great to have Travelodge open in Crawley earlier this year, and I am delighted to come down and see it for myself. Speaking to staff and having a look behind the scenes provides a valuable insight, which I hope I can use to contribute to the debate about the future of our town. This is yet another example of a national company showing confidence in Crawley by opening here for business. I am of course pleased that this new hotel has created 20 local jobs." 
"Next to the hotel there is the new Morrisons supermarket, which now sees 215 people in 195 new positions. Of these employees, 140 were previously unemployed. I recently visited the nearby Turtle Bay restaurant on its opening night; where 60 new jobs have been created. I must praise the vision of the previous administration at Crawley Borough Council, who showed leadership to enable these businesses to open in our town."