Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mandatory CCTV In All Slaughterhouses

In Crawley we have an MP who has conviction and who makes a difference. On the 3rd of February 2015, Crawley MP Henry Smith put forward an Adjournment debate in the House of Commons calling for the mandatory introduction of CCTV in slaughterhouses. This followed the release of secret recordings that showed shocking and appalling mistreatment of animals in a slaughterhouse.

Henry stated the following at the time. “CCTV in slaughterhouses provides welfare oversight and helps prevent abuse; something, from the appalling scenes witnessed, is clearly now needed. Most supermarkets have already taken decisive action. All the major chains now insist that their slaughterhouse suppliers have CCTV installed. I am pleased to have support of over 170 MPs, and that 80,000 people have signed a petition on the Government website. Personally I've been vegetarian for over a quarter-of-a-century because of animal welfare and food sustainability reasons, but I believe the vast majority of those who eat meat also want to know that their food has been produced without cruelty."
I agreed with that and took the view that while voluntary introduction at many slaughterhouses was welcome, only the mandatory introduction can truly ensure the safeguards needed at every slaughterhouse. Henry’s efforts paid off when this subsequently became part of the Conservative manifesto in this year’s general election.

Then, last week, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced new plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England and it looks like the Welsh government is to follow suit. These rules will be phased in over the next year and Food Standards Agency vets will be able to ask to see footage of all areas where livestock are held. Any slaughterhouses found to be failing welfare standards could face a criminal investigation or lose staff licences.

While we do have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we should be rightly proud of the way in which the UK has led the way in the protection of animals, Henry Smith recognised that on this issue, there was more to be done and successfully called for positive change.  

Monday, 7 August 2017

Be It Caracas Or Crawley - Jeremy Corbyn's Socialism Never Works

Jeremy Corbyn with former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chaves   
It is desperately sad to see the ongoing suffering of Venezuela’s 32 million people and how the country has descended into a state of chaos under its far-left socialist regime. More than 100 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since April, amid shortages of food, medicine and basic provisions. Venezuela’s collapsing economy is seeing inflation of about 800% and the country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Amid the worsening situation, the Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to Venezuela and all dependents of British Embassy staff have been withdrawn. Criticism of the regime has come from virtually every other South American country as well as other western countries including the UK. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson rightly summed up Venezuela’s president by saying “Maduro is acting like a dictator of an evil regime. He has destroyed Venezuelan economy, eroded human rights and imprisoned thousands.”
Sadly, what is happening in Venezuela is an extreme example of what happens when socialism reaches its natural conclusion of running out of other people’s money. The Venezuelan president is a personal friend of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn who as of Monday morning has so far remained silent about recent events, but he and his colleagues weren’t always so quiet, having previously praised Venezuela as a model of socialism. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell once said that former president Hugo Chavez was “an example to any future Labour government in this country” while Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott once said “I think the importance of Venezuela is that it shows another way is possible”. When Corbyn and McDonnell congratulated Nicolas Maduro on succeeding Chavez, they noted his commitment to “continue Hugo Chavez's Socialist revolution in Venezuela”.

Jeremy Corbyn is due to visit Crawley on Monday 7th August to address cheering Labour Party members and Councillors who view him as a Socialist hero. While hailing Jemery Corbyn, they will be ignoring the lessons of our own political history of the 1970s and the late 2000s, as well the terrible decline of Venezuela which shows that ultimately socialism never works. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Providing Certainty For Crawley's 6,000 EU Citizens After Brexit

There are those at home and abroad with political agendas who don’t want the UK to be successful outside of the EU. An example of this was last week when we saw an absurd claim that was given wide publicity, which said that our planes won’t fly after Brexit. Such nonsense distracts from the real issues and while I firmly believe that Brexit will benefit our country in the long-term, I also recognise that there are short-term challenges and issued to be resolved.

In Crawley we have over 6,000 registered adult EU nationals (not including Irish citizens) who make a major contribution to our town. Some have been in Crawley well over 20 years and have raised their families here, while others intend to work here temporarily. Providing a fair deal for EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in EU countries is a key part of the Brexit negotiations and one that I am very confident will have a good outcome.

While most people rightly recognise that unlimited free movement of people needs to end, most of us also recognise that EU citizens have become an integral part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country. The Conservative Government has made it clear that the rights of EU citizens here should be addressed early. This is why a very fair offer has been made to the EU to help provide that certainty for them.

The 3 million EU citizens in the UK will soon have guaranteed certainty about their future in the UK and a reciprocal agreement will provide the same certainty for the more than 1 million UK citizens who live in EU countries. The plan is that applicants who’ve already have five year’s continuous residence in the UK will be immediately eligible for settled status, and those who do not yet meet the five-year threshold by exit day and who arrived before a date yet to be specified after the Article 50 triggering, can stay until they reach that milestone so they too can also secure settled status at a later date.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Addressing Crawley's Neighbourhood Parking Problems

Boswell Road in Tilgate where the Conservatives created parking spaces
From our extensive engagement with Crawley’s residents, we know that residential neighbourhood parking is a top local concern for many people. Under the direction of Crawley Borough Council and its predecessor Urban District Council, parts of Crawley have been built with woefully inadequate residential parking provision. Regrettably, this historical problem still occurs today with Labour encouraging some developments that deliberately have an under provision of parking spaces, with their misguided view that hardly anyone will ever want to use a car.

Back in February, Labour Councillors scrapped Crawley’s popular Residential Parking Improvement Programme that created additional parking spaces out of surplus grass verges. This £1.3 million budget was re-directed to pay for the heating network of the upcoming new Crawley town hall. Our Conservative budget amendment to reinstate the parking improvements budget and seek alternative funding for the new town hall was narrowly lost as Labour have three more Councillors than us.
Labour’s parking ‘policy’ is to blame West Sussex County Council because they manage and maintain the road network, rather than accept it was the Crawley Council’s planning policies that got us here. This is why Crawley Borough Council started the residential parking improvement programme in the first place and we Conservatives want to bring it back, as a key policy among many that we have to help address neighbourhood parking problems.

The good news is that despite Labour ignoring Crawley’s concerns back in February, in April the Conservative government awarded Crawley Borough Council £1.4 million for its District Heat Network for the new town hall. Crawley was one of nine local authorities which were awarded such funding to help create low-carbon and environmentally efficient heating networks.
This means that Labour-run Crawley Borough Council is sitting on £1.3 million of your money that was earmarked for Crawley parking improvements. We want this money released and have submitted a motion to next week’s Full Council meeting calling upon the Council to reinstate the parking improvements budget and to invite Councillors to nominate streets to be considered for parking improvements. If just two Labour Councillors vote with us, this can happen.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Make The Right Choice On May 4th

Jeremy Corbyn with the Labour Group Leader of West Sussex County Council 
It was a surprise when it was announced a fortnight ago that there would be a general election on the 8th of June. Now that it is happening, I can see that gaining a mandate for Theresa May from the country will strengthen Britain’s negotiating position as we leave the EU. I also see the move as courageous because there was three years to run of this five-year parliament, but where Gordon Brown failed in seeking a mandate by not calling a general election when he became Prime Minister in 2007, Theresa May has bravely put her trust in the people to make the right choice for our county’s future.
While this general election was a surprise, we already have the scheduled elections taking place for West Sussex County Council next week on Thursday the 4th of May. The County Council delivers 80% of our local government services and who represents you is important. If you are looking for someone to use the position of County Councillor for your area as a political platform to advance the views of Jeremy Corbyn for the next four years, then I would suggest voting Labour in the County Council elections.

If however you are looking for a County Councillor who will put their local area first, as well as having a constructive engagement and a positive influence with the County Council on your behalf, then I recommend voting for your local Conservative candidate who is listed below. We are offering a strong and united team of candidates in Crawley whose are determined to get the very best for our town.  
Bewbush & Ifield West - Duncan Peck
Broadfield - Irshad Jalaldeen
Langley Green & Ifield East - Brenda Burgess
Maidenbower - Bob Lanzer
Northgate & West Green - Ian Pendlington
Pound Hill - Richard Burrett
Southgate & Gossops Green - Kim Jaggard
Three Bridges & Pound Hill South - Charles Petts
Tilgate & Furnace Green - Duncan Crow

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Labour Make Crawley's Parking Worse

Not enough parking provision - a congested street in Crawley 
Residents in many of Crawley’s neighbourhoods will know that poor planning in the past with a lack of foresight about future car ownership, has led to today’s parking difficulties where some streets simply do not have enough parking provision.  While the past may be history, what I find frustrating is that with Labour at the helm at Crawley Borough Council, that yesterday’s mistakes are still being made today.

My colleague Cllr Kim Jaggard, submitted a very insightful written question at February’s Full Council meeting. Kim asked how many housing units in Crawley town centre had been given planning permission since May 2014 and what was the total number of parking spaces allocated for use by these housing units?
The revealing answer was that 901 housing units had received planning permission and that their parking provision was just 523 spaces. This is a deficit of nearly 400 parking spaces if each property were to have one parking space allocated to it, which many people would still consider a low amount. I am very supportive of housing in the town centre but these totally unrealistic parking provisions will store up parking problems for tomorrow, not just in the town centre but also in the surrounding neighbourhoods of Southgate, West Green, Northgate and Three Bridges.

At the same Full Council meeting in February it was very disappointing to see Labour scrap Crawley’s £1.3 million Neighbourhood Parking Improvement Budget in order to help fund the new Crawley Town Hall, as well as for them to vote down the Conservative group amendment to re-instate the Parking Improvements Budget and to seek alternative funds for this £1.3 million for the new Town Hall.
The good news is that last week, the Conservative Government stepped in by allocating £1.4 million of funding for the District Heat Network element of the new Town Hall development, which is what Labour were planning to use the Parking Improvements Budget for. Now that alternative funding has been secured, there really is no excuse for Labour not to re-instate the Neighbourhood Parking Improvements Budget. If they won’t, a future Conservative-run Council will.

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.