Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about Christmas given that the paper came out today on Christmas Eve. May I wish everyone in Tilgate and Furnace Green, Crawley and West Sussex, and anyone reading this anywhere in the world, a very happy and peaceful Christmas.
 
"This week sees the start of the Christmas holiday and the last week of 2014. Christmas Day is the one day of the year when we collectively press the pause button on our hectic pace of life in the 21st Century. It is a day when most of us take a day off and the country at large relaxes. The vast majority of shops, offices and factories are closed, and the traffic on our roads is much less with a noticeable absence of Lorries. Most public transport ceases and Gatwick Airport is virtually a ghost town with very few flights.   
I believe this is how it should be for one day out of 365 in a year.  Christmas will mean different things to different people but there should be one day a year when the norm is for us to have a very peaceful day with the pressures of everyday life forgotten. However, I always respect anyone who has to work on Christmas Day, as well as those who are away from their families such as those serving in the Armed Forces.

I take the view that as few people as possible should have to work on Christmas Day as it is such a unique and special day, and we should always be grateful to those who spend Christmas Day looking after others in need. I believe that a peaceful Christmas break allows time for reflection, an opportunity to think about the true meaning of Christmas and how going forward, we can focus on what we feel is important in life.
It does sometimes feel like there is ever more pressure to commercialise Christmas, both in its run up and from Boxing Day onwards; with the media appearing to judge how successful Christmas is by how busy the shops are. My own view is that a better guide to the success of Christmas would be how many of us are celebrating the birth of Jesus, but whatever you may be doing over the next week, may I wish all readers of the Crawley Observer a very happy and peaceful Christmas."

Monday, 22 December 2014

Looking Forward To 2015

After six months of writing my weekly Crawley Observer column, this week I had a break from writing it and lent it to my colleague Cllr Duncan Peck, who is a councillor for Maidenbower and our Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Engagement. 

PM choice in 2015 of Ed Miliband or David Cameron
Duncan Peck writes - "As I put pen to paper on a cold bright Sunday morning what better time to reflect before the New Year. 2014 brought us many challenges, not only locally but across the UK in general.  People are increasingly focusing on who is right to lead the Country after next May and it is becoming more evident that the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan is working. 

Unlike Labour, we are not dictated to by the unions as to what we do, but rather we are guided by residents, the people who we answer to, the people who want change and the people who do not need anyone telling them what they think is wrong. In forgetting who they serve, Labour wants your vote but not your opinion.
As we get closer to the May elections of 2015 we often see Labour promising things they know they can’t deliver and will not deliver and I ask myself, is this the right way to treat people? I remember only too well what this country was like under a Labour Government and how many hundreds of thousands are still being adversely affected to this day.

Public finances are a serious issue and so when Ed Miliband had a once in a lifetime chance ahead of the election to give his party conference flagship speech of the year, he forgot to mention the most important fundamental issue that our country faces - the deficit. This was more than a Freudian slip and signifies that a Labour Government would bring the country to its knees again. Higher borrowing, higher taxes and higher spending is not a sign that Labour is ready to be responsible or has any financial credibility.
Nearer to home in Crawley, money does not seem to be a strong point for the Labour controlled Council when it was recently reported that the Leader of Crawley Borough Council did not know where the £17,000 of taxpayers money came from for the shambolic Christmas Lights switch on. Concerns are growing that not only is Ed Miliband not ready, our Council is also showing signs of unease."

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Increased Funding For The NHS Needs A Strong Economy

In my Crawley Observer column last week, I wrote about the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, the extra money being put into the NHS, and how only a sound economy can deliver and sustain increased future National Heath Service funding.

"Last week’s Autumn Statement from Chancellor George Osborne provided good news for the years ahead. This good news included extra funding for the National Health Service which faces ever increasing demand, which is why I welcome the government providing an extra £2 billion for frontline NHS services in England in 2015-16. This is part of a multi-year extra £3.1 billion UK-wide investment in the NHS.
I am fortunate in that I’ve only ever needed to visit a doctor on three occasions in the last 30 years, but many people have a greater need and GP services are greatly valued and important to local communities. This is why I very much welcome that an extra £1 billion will fund advanced care in GP practices over four years in England. Recognising the importance of prudent public spending, this money has come directly from fines collected by the Financial Conduct Authority from five banks for failures in foreign exchange trading.

It is also good to see that an extra £15 million will go into dementia research which we welcome in Crawley as a dementia-friendly town. Other areas of extra investment include £150 million over five years to support young people with eating disorders and £200 million will go to developing new ways of caring for patients.
As the population increases and as we live longer, the demands on the NHS will continue to grow. If we are to receive good health care, we must have a strong economy and sound public finances that can finance these growing demands. Anyone can make promises of more spending, but only the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan will give us a strong economy for the long-term to pay for it.
 
If we were to go back to the reckless spending and damaging economic policies that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls enacted under the last Labour Government, we would ultimately see the NHS become unaffordable and unsustainable for us as a nation. To protect our NHS, we must protect our economy, and that means not giving the keys back to the same people who crashed the economy last time."

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Supporting Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday. Last week in my Crawley Observer column, I wrote about Small Business Saturday and how the Conservatives are helping to create the right conditions for small business to trade successfully and to grow.

A poster from the USA, where Small Business Saturday started
"A week on Saturday (December 6th) is Small Business Saturday. Since last year, this takes place on the first Saturday in December in the UK. Small Business Saturday is a grassroots, non-political and non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to shop locally and support small businesses in our local communities.
While the campaign may be highlighted on one day, the aims are to have a lasting impact on small businesses which are a key part of both the local economy and of local communities. I know that many Crawley residents support small businesses and I hope even more will do so this Saturday and beyond.  

The idea started in America in November 2010 after concern that local businesses were missing out on the biggest shopping days of the year which are after the Thanksgiving holiday, known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Therefore, the following Saturday was designated Small Business Saturday. Its on-going success in the USA led to it being introduced here. 
The Conservative-led government recognises that small business is the lifeblood of the economy and has been creating the right conditions to help them thrive. Over 20,000 government-backed start-up loans worth over £100 million, have been awarded to help get new businesses off the ground. These start-up loans are helping people build something of their own and create jobs.

A key policy has been George Osborne’s major reduction of up to £2,000 of national insurance contributions that small businesses no longer have to pay. At a stroke, this new relief, called the National Insurance Employment Allowance, removed the ‘jobs tax’ on millions of small businesses, which has enabled many one-man businesses to take on their first employee. This has contributed to our record level of employment.
Other helpful measures brought in include the doubling of rate relief meaning that 360,000 small businesses now pay no rates at all, and the scrapping of red tape which has saved businesses £1.5 billion. Small businesses are a big asset to Crawley and ensuring we provide the right conditions to help them grow is vital."

Friday, 5 December 2014

Starbucks Comes To Crawley

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about the new Starbucks that opened in Crawley's Queens Square last Friday and the joint £3 million investment for Queens Square that Crawley Borough Council (decision taken by previous Conservative Administration) and West Sussex County Council are putting in to transform the centre of our town.

Crawley MP Henry Smith officially opening Starbucks Crawley
"Last Friday, along with other councillors and popular Crawley MP Henry Smith, who did the honours in cutting the ribbon, I was pleased to attend the official opening of the new Starbucks in Queens Square. Starbucks is a major brand that has been missing from Crawley town centre (excluding the one in the leisure park cinema) and I welcome this greater variety and choice for our town centre.
Some people say there are too many coffee shops in the town centre but I would say there are only too many if there are not the customers to sustain them all. While I may be euro-sceptic in my political outlook, I do embrace a more European-style café culture when it comes to ensuring that our town centre remains popular. Nobody wants to see a declining town centre with lots of empty shops.

Town centres have to change and evolve if they are to stay vibrant and successful. Major changes in shopping habits with booming online sales, means that while shopping will always be an important part of town centres; it can no longer be the sole focus. We have worked hard to help Crawley buck the declining trend of other towns, with the new development of Morrisons, Turtle Bay and Travelodge regenerating the north of the High Street.

We need to invest if we are to keep the town centre thriving, which is why I am enthusiastic about the £3 million Queens Square project that is being jointly funded by Crawley Borough Council and West Sussex County Council. This is good partnership working between the two councils and as well as between the two main political parties, with at Crawley Council, the new Labour administration continuing with the work started by the previous Conservative administration. 
We are now at the public consultation stage and three design concepts have been published. We very much welcome your feedback and we will listen to residents, businesses, visitors and expert advice, in coming up with a design that ensures Queens Square is a credit to our town and a place that people want to visit."

Monday, 17 November 2014

Time For Ed Miliband To Quit

This week in my Crawley Observer column, which came out on the day of Ed Miliband's latest doomed re-launch, I have written about how time is running out for Labour to replace Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband has become a figure of public ridicule
"Last week in this column, as we reached six months before the general election, I wrote about how uncertain the outcome looked with it almost being impossible to predict what political colour or colours of government we will end up with.
However, what is certain is that the Prime Minister that emerges after the election will be the leader of either the Conservative or Labour party. The same is true in Crawley in that it is certain that our MP will be elected from one of the two main parties, which of course directly affects who will become our Prime Minister.

The last 30 years have shown that whichever party wins in Crawley, also sees their leader becoming Prime Minister. We elect individual MPs with a Parliamentary system but the reality is that a Conservative vote is a vote for David Cameron to be Prime Minister and that a Labour vote is a vote for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister.
As I write on Sunday, it is looking uncertain that it will be Ed Miliband leading the Labour party into the election. It appears that many in the Labour party have finally woken up to what the rest of us knew years ago, in that Ed Miliband is widely not seen as a credible potential Prime Minister. People may well ask if Crawley Labour will continue to sing the praises of Ed Miliband and if they intend to feature him strongly in their election material next year?

A leadership contest has to happen very soon or Labour will have to painfully plod on until May with Ed Miliband. I suspect he may be persuaded by colleagues to resign which would be the easiest way to replace him. I hope this happens as regardless of the obvious electoral advantage to the Conservatives of Ed Miliband leading Labour into the election, I view it as vital for democracy that our country has a choice of two credible Prime Ministers at the election."

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Six Months Until The General Election

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about the general election that takes place in six months' time and the current unfairness in the system. I expect I will write about the election a few times over the coming months.
This week's bookies odds for the next Prime Minister 
"This week will be exactly six months until next years’ general election which takes place on Thursday the 7th of May. Despite being interested in this event, I have to confess that I am no wiser than I was six months ago or indeed a year ago, as to what the eventual outcome will be.
As things stand, everything seems to point to another hung parliament and that makes predicting who will be in government the most uncertain election outcome in a generation. All sorts of permutations and possibilities that have not happened before are being discussed. The various potential outcomes may well focus minds on our voting system as well as the unfairness of some constituencies having many less voters than others.

A hint of what may happen came at the 2005 general election. Experts have calculated that in 2005 with an equal share of the vote, the Conservatives would have won 111 fewer seats than Labour. Labour won a comfortable majority with a national vote share of 35.2% to the Conservative’s 32.4%. In England, the Conservatives won a small majority of the vote over Labour (35.7% to 35.5%) but Labour won 286 English seats to the Conservatives’ 194.
Next year, we really could be looking at a situation where the Conservatives win the most votes not just in England but overall, but that Labour win the most seats (or win fewer seats than the Conservatives), but still form a minority government propped up by the SNP. While that would be a legitimate election outcome, the obvious unfairness of it would risk creating a huge disenfranchisement of the voting public, if the party that came second in terms of votes (and maybe seats as well) was the lead party in government.

Labour and the LibDems cynically stopped the boundary review that would have helped to equalise the constituencies, ensuring that Labour’s inbuilt unfair advantage of the current boundaries remains. I hope that this unfairness that directly impacts on the election outcome, is not compounded by another unfairness, that being that the party that comes second actually ‘wins’ the election."     

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Only The Conservatives Will Bring In Fair Votes For England

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about Crawley Labour's rejection of English votes for English laws and how I see it working in the next Parliament should the Conservatives win the general election next May. 
 
Only the Conservatives will bring in fair votes for England 
"At last week’s Full Council meeting, the Conservative Group tabled a Notice of Motion for Crawley Borough Council to support English votes for English laws. Much of the legislation that Parliament passes affects English Councils like Crawley, but not Councils outside of England because local government is a devolved function in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The gross unfairness is of course that 117 MPs from outside of England can vote on matters affecting Crawley but that Crawley’s MP (or any MP from England) cannot vote on devolved matters outside of England. What needs to happen is very simple. One day a week at the UK Parliament should be set aside for legislation only affecting England, where only MPs representing English constituencies can vote. If the Conservatives have a majority after the next election, English votes for English laws will become a reality.
What would be better is if all three main parties signed up to this and then it doesn’t become an election issue. I was perhaps naïve to think that Crawley’s Labour Councillors might possibly support something that puts fairness before their own in-built and unfair electoral advantage of having Scottish Labour MPs deciding matters in Crawley.

Sadly, Labour strongly opposed our Notice of Motion that called for English votes for English laws. They argued against it in debate and put in a wrecking amendment calling it a ‘constitutional convention’, which is fudge and delay that mixes it up with unrealistic and unwanted options such as Regional Assemblies. Labour seems incapable of grasping that people don’t want more politicians and more government - they want fairer government.

Crawley Labour appear to be following their national party line of confuse and delay, with vague promises to consider it if they are in government after May. With polls predicting a hung Parliament, does anyone honestly believe that a minority Labour government or with a small majority, would bring in English votes for English laws when it would probably stop them being the largest party in England? We know the answer and that is that Labour cannot be trusted to deliver."  

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Crawley Labour Reject English Votes For English Laws

Below is a press release I've issued after Crawley Labour rejected our Motion tabled at last week's Full Council meeting. One of the Councillors rejecting our Motion was the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley, Chris Oxlade, who is pictured below with the person he thinks will make a great Prime Minister, Ed Miliband. 
"Don't worry Ed, I'll never vote for English votes for English laws"
The Conservative opposition at Crawley Town Hall have blasted the ruling Labour group for “sabotaging” a Conservative Notice of Motion. The motion had called on the Council to support English votes for English laws for all Parliamentary votes that related to English local government.
The Conservative Notice of Motion had intended for the Council’s Chief Executive to write to the Local Government Association, calling for them to lobby the three main political parties to make English votes for English laws a manifesto commitment for the general election. This would mean that regardless of the election’s outcome, English votes for English laws would become a reality.

The ruling Labour group forced through an amendment to the Motion that removed nearly all of the references to “English votes for English laws” and replaced it with a “Constitutional convention” that included looking at options for Regional Assemblies, all after the general election.
Conservative group leader Cllr Duncan Crow said “Labour completely sabotaged our Motion by cynically taking it away from English votes for English laws, so that it became a complicated fudge which meant we had to abstain on the eventual vote. Labour strongly argued against our Motion and it is very obvious that they have no intention whatsoever of implementing English votes for English laws should they be in government after next May.

Cllr Crow added “People don’t want more politicians and more government as Labour are proposing with Regional Assemblies, they want fairer government. A very clear dividing line has now been drawn in Crawley between Conservatives who believe in fairness of representation and Labour who want their Scottish MPs to decide on laws affecting Crawley, despite the fact that Crawley’s MP can’t vote on devolved Scottish issues.”

Friday, 24 October 2014

Helping People On Low Incomes

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about how the Conservatives are helping those on modest incomes. Labour like to claim this territory as their own but the reality is that it is the Conservatives who are the party of social mobility and who are making being in work better than being on benefits.

Working at minimum wage for 30 hours - you'll pay zero Income Tax
"Last year under the Conservatives, Crawley Borough Council led by example and became one of the first Conservative-run Councils nationwide to become an accredited Living Wage employer. This means that the Council paid all its employees an independently set amount by the Living Wage Foundation that is considered enough to live off. As the economy improves, more employers should be able to afford to pay a living wage and the Council encourages other employers to pay it where possible.

Encouraging the Living Wage is just one aspect of the Conservatives helping the least well-off. This should be viewed as part of a wider package of measures, all of which are underpinned by the Conservatives long-term economic plan. While Labour may choose to ignore this fact, we shouldn’t be under any illusion that getting the economy right is fundamental to helping ordinary people and the least well-off get on in life.
A key policy has been raising the income tax allowance from £6,475 in 2010 to £10,000 this year. Next April the tax-free allowance will rise to £10,500 a year and David Cameron has pledged it will rise to £12,500 in the next parliament. This will take a further one million workers out of income tax altogether and anyone on the minimum wage (which has just risen to £6.50 an hour) working 30 hours a week, will not have to pay a penny of income tax.

The Conservatives have also frozen Council Tax since 2010 and next April will see the fifth successive annual freeze, meaning that in real terms it has reduced whereas under the last Labour government, Council Tax doubled.
Making work pay and getting those who can work off benefits has been crucial to having the highest ever number of people in employment whereas Labour cynically opposed every benefit reform, preferring people to languish on benefits at public expense. Labour may claim with words to be the party that will help the low-paid, but the reality is that it is the actions of the Conservatives that show we are the party that helps those on modest incomes."

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Crawley Borough Council To Vote On English Votes For English Laws


Last Wednesday in my Crawley Observer column, I wrote about English votes for English laws and the Notice of Motion that I have tabled for tomorrow's Full Council meeting at Crawley Borough Council. Will Crawley's Labour Councillors back my Motion and side with the people of Crawley or will they side with Ed Miliband and him wanting an unfair electoral advantage for Labour that discriminates against English voters?
Crawley's MP Henry Smith has always been very supportive of English votes for English laws and fully backs our Motion.

"Conservatives believe that political representation should be devolved to be as local as possible and recognise that a healthy local democracy must have local people feeling that our political system is fair. The promise of further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland following the Scottish referendum has highlighted the political unfairness in England, that being the so called ‘West Lothian Question’.
This is where Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs can vote on matters solely relating to England but where English MPs have no say on the same issues in those countries as those matters are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. An example of this is laws that decide the powers of local councils - our local decision making bodies. MPs outside of England have disproportionate power as well as voters outside of England. This is clearly unfair and disenfranchises English voters.

Change is needed so that a voter in Crawley can has a greater say by only having English MPs vote on matters relating to what our local Council has the power to do. Therefore, the Conservative group at Crawley Borough Council have tabled a Notice of Motion for next week’s Full Council meeting, to give Crawley a stronger voice by advocating that English votes for English laws is accepted by the other political parties, as well as by the Conservatives.
    
The Local Government Association (LGA) is the body that represents English Councils and if our Notice of Motion is passed next week, the Council’s Chief Executive will write to the LGA on the Council’s behalf to:

1. State Crawley Borough Council’s support for ‘English votes for English laws’ for all Parliamentary votes relating to English local government;
2. Encourage the LGA to lobby on behalf of English councils for all three main political parties to make English votes for English laws on local government a manifesto commitment for the next General Election; and

3. Call on the LGA to negotiate with Central Government on what further service delivery responsibilities and powers can be devolved to elected local authorities in England."
 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Labour's Crawley Parliamentary Candidate Chris Oxlade Puts Trade Unions Before Crawley Residents (Twice!)

Labour are left-wing in Crawley, make no mistake. These are the very people who brought us the loony-left nonsense of "Nuclear-Free Crawley" roadsigns in the 1980s and who dance to whatever tune their Trade Union puppeteers and paymasters tell them to. They never cross picket lines and will always support a strike regardless of how many innocent people are affected by it.

Chris Oxlade, their Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley has shown he is no different after showing solidarity with the unions for a second time by postponing a meeting that Crawley residents like to go to. As a result, I issued the following press release. He has since claimed he didn't know that the Library (the meeting venue) would be open. It was of course open both times and as Committee Chairman, he could have easily changed the venue to Crawley Town Hall if he really believed there was a risk the Library would be shut. He's been found out.
Vote for Chris Oxlade as Crawley MP and get his boss Ed Miliband as UK Prime Minister 
A Labour County Councillor has faced strong criticism after he postponed a meeting of the West Crawley County Local Committee for a second time, in support of a local government strike which had been planned for Tuesday the 14th October, but which has now been called off.  
Chairman of the West Crawley County Local Committee, Labour County Councillor Chris Oxlade (Bewbush and Ifield West), who is also Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley, was branded a “puppet of his Trade Union paymasters” by Conservative County Councillor Duncan Crow (Tilgate and Furnace Green) for twice delaying Council business and inconveniencing Crawley residents, by refusing to hold a West Crawley County Local Committee meeting on the same day as planned industrial action.   

The County Local Committees (CLCs) are meetings that actively encourage public attendance and participation. Crawley has two of these public-facing committees, one for West Crawley and one for East Crawley.
Cllr Crow said “I am appalled that Chris Oxlade has done this again and he is gaining a reputation for being a puppet of his Trade Union paymasters. When he previously postponed a West Crawley CLC meeting in July due to it being another Union strike day, none of the staff needed to hold the meeting were on strike and there was no reason whatsoever for the meeting not to be held, other than presumably Chris Oxlade showing his left-wing solidarity with the Trade Unions who bankroll his Labour Party to the tune of millions of pounds each year.”

Cllr Crow added “Crawley residents will rightly be suspicious as to where Chris Oxlade’s loyalties will be if he becomes MP for Crawley. His actions are speaking louder than words as he has now twice put showing solidarity with the Trade Unions before Crawley residents wishing to attend these meetings, as well as before essential local County Council business.”

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Crawley Observer Column 8th October 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about our successful economy under the Coalition and then contrasted that with France, where Labour policies have been enacted over the last two years, with disastrous results for the French.
 
in 2012 Ed Miliband heralded French socialist economic policy 

"The passage of time has a habit of proving politicians to be either right or wrong. Nowhere do I feel this applies more than with economic policies. The political backdrop of the last few years has been the economy and the public finances. Not only did Labour give Britain the longest and deepest recession in 2008/09 out of the all the major industrialised nations, the Coalition government inherited the largest budget deficit percentage out of these nations.
Not everyone will find economics and public finance interesting but they are hugely importance. If good public services are to be sustained for the long term, it is vital that the deficit is removed and that we have the right conditions to grow the economy. This is happening. The UK now has the fastest growing economy out of the major industrialised nations and employment has grown to record levels with unemployment sharply falling.

We should never forget that not only did Labour get the country into a dire state in the first place, that they also cynically opposed all the measures to fix the economy and create an environment where work pays. It is very easy in opposition to oppose any one given saving as Labour always do, but there is a total lack of credibility to oppose every saving. Such blatant and cynical opportunism is not a trait of a party ready for government.
In July 2012, Labour leader Ed Miliband was bullishly singing the praises of the then new Socialist French President Francois Hollande, and he declared that “the political tide is turning against the economics of austerity”, after a meeting in Paris. Hollande had been elected on a false promise of “no more austerity” meaning that France had no intention of living within its mean.

The result has been disastrous for France with unemployment expected to rise to 10.3% by the end of this year and the economy has barely grown since. One only needs to look over the channel to see what a Labour government would be like. As ever, the passage of time proves that socialism never works."

Friday, 3 October 2014

Crawley Observer Column 1st October 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about how the Conservatives are the only political party who can and will let the British people have an IN/OUT referendum on our membership of the European Union. I then go on to write about  how UKIP Crawley has completely imploded under Lee Gilroy (who wants to be a UKIP parliamentary candidate) since he took over Crawley UKIP in a coup by falsely smearing the existing Chairman - a decent man. It is incredible how one man's power trip can damage his former local party and destroy his new one. 

"Remind me, how many council seats have UKIP ever won in Crawley?"
"I was delighted that Scotland voted to stay within the UK and that not only is this constitutional issue settled for a generation, but that the Conservative-led government enabled the Scottish referendum to take place. Crucially, we trusted the people to decide their future.

There is of course one other major constitutional issue to be settled, that being the UK’s membership of the European Union. We had a vote on our membership of the EEC in 1975 and if the Conservatives are returned to government next year, we will have a referendum on our EU membership in 2017. By 2017, no one under 60 years of age will have ever had a vote on our relationship with Europe.

Incredibly, the Conservatives are the only major party offering the British people an In/Out referendum vote on our EU membership. If Labour wins the general election, the British people will continue to be denied their say. Crawley residents should ask the Crawley Labour party why do they not trust Crawley people to have a vote on EU membership? 

When it comes to the EU, there is much media hype about UKIP and it was disappointing to see two MPs from my own party defect to them. While Nigel Farage may be grinning about that, there will be an even bigger grin on the face of Ed Miliband who benefits the most from UKIP doing well. In Crawley, for anyone who has concerns about the EU and immigration, voting UKIP enables Labour to win with the exact opposite of the policies you wish to see being implemented.
 
UKIP are a protest party who have never run anything, will never run anything, and who are incapable of running anything. In Crawley, they’ve been a shambles over the last year and have now completely collapsed. Highly questionable leadership, in-fighting, the ousting under false pretences of the previous Chairman, many members leaving, their only Councillor resigning and now their current Chairman resigning, has seen the total demise of UKIP in Crawley. Now more than ever, the only viable alternative to Labour in Crawley is the Conservatives."
 

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 www.westsussex.gov.uk or by emailing fsm@westsussex.gov.uk.

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."