Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Crawley's Labour Council To Boycott UK Defence Industry

On the same day that Crawley's Conservative MP Henry Smith will be voting in the House of Commons for the UK to join the coalition to target ISIS terrorists in Syria, the cabinet of Crawley's Labour Council will be voting at Crawley Town Hall for Crawley Borough Council to boycott the UK defence industry. I find this appalling and Labour should hang their heads in shame. I have written about this in this week's Crawley Observer. 

Back to the future - Conservative campaign poster from 1992
"The British defence industry is a great economic success story, including here in Crawley.  Across the UK, it employs 300,000 people, including 2,400 at Thales in Manor Royal. Most of these jobs are skilled and well-paid, making a significant contribution to Crawley’s local economy. Our defence industry has an annual turnover of £35 billion and makes up 10% of all UK manufacturing. Make no mistake, having a leading global company such as Thales here in Crawley is prestigious and very beneficial to our town.
Therefore, I am utterly dismayed that the Labour leadership at Crawley Borough Council is actively proposing at their cabinet meeting on Wednesday 2nd December, that the Council should financially boycott the British defence industry. Labour wants to prohibit the Council from investing any of its £100 million cash reserves in our defence industry because of weapons manufacture. These companies make weapons, equipment and the airport security facilities that not only keep our Armed Forces and Police safe, but which ultimately keeps our country safe.

Just three weeks after Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Crawley, it is clear that Crawley’s Labour Councillors are increasingly using the Council to force Corbyn’s left-wing agenda on Crawley. I strongly urge Labour to change their mind at their cabinet meeting on 2nd December, but if they don’t, all 18 Conservative Crawley Borough Councillors will be voting against Labour’s policy at the Full Council meeting on 16th December.
With Labour having 19 Councillors, it would only take one Labour Councillor to vote against for it to be defeated. I encourage Crawley residents to lobby Labour Councillors to pressure them to put our country first. If they refuse and put Jeremy Corbyn first, then you have the opportunity to vote them out of office at the local elections on 5th May next year. 

If Crawley’s Labour Councillors do not back down and they force their unpatriotic policy on Crawley Borough Council, I give an absolute guarantee that if Crawley elects a Conservative Council next May, we will remove this grotesque insult to our defence industry and our Armed Forces at the very first opportunity."

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Paris Terror Attacks

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about how I feel we should respond following the terrible events in Paris of November 13th. I wrote this on Sunday evening. There are still people fighting for their lives as a result of the attacks and France is in a state of emergency.  
Ten of the victims of the Paris attacks
"In the year-and-a-half I have been writing this column, this is the most saddening one to write. In the fight against terrorism, last Friday had started well with the news that the serial murderer known as Jihadi John had been taken out by a drone. Further good news came with Kurdish Iraqi forces recapturing the strategic town of Sinjar from Isis in northern Iraq.

Tragically, this good news soon evaporated on Friday evening as the terrible attacks in Paris unfolded. France was targeted but this was an attack on us all. Words are hard to come by when attempting to describe what happened - it is just so hard to comprehend at any level. The scale of the evil unleashed has left us upset and angry but with an even greater resolve to stop terrorism.
If asking what we could do here locally in Crawley to help stop those who seek to destroy our way of life, I would say that regardless of our political outlook, we should all get behind our government’s efforts to keep us safe. That includes supporting new surveillance laws to prevent terrorism and encouraging the government to take more action to destroy Isis. The government want to join the coalition in going after Isis in Syria as well as in Iraq but are being blocked by some MPs. Those MPs ought to reassess their opposition as the UK’s position is increasingly out of step with the coalition and it will take tougher action to help to destroy Isis sooner.
I’m sure we will continue to show solidarity with France and every nation that believes in free and democratic societies where differences are respected. One of the best ways to defy Isis is to not fall into their trap of trying to divide the rest of us from our Muslim friends and neighbours. All of us in Crawley are horrified by the attacks and we know terrorists thrive on division, so let’s continue to stand united against the evil of Isis and make sure they never succeed in dividing us in our great town of Crawley."

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Conservatives - A New Home For Former Labour and LibDem Voters

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about the political spectrum and how, especially in Crawley, it is the Conservatives who are increasingly the logical choice for people who regard themselves as centre-ground or swing voters. We are the only credible alternative to Jeremy Corbyn's loony-left and bitterly divided Labour Party.   
Labour are not a credible party for centre-ground voters
"Most people could be forgiven for not noticing that the Liberal Democrat party conference took place this week. That is perhaps a good indication of their irrelevance since the Coalition Government ended in May. Left with only 8 MPs in the whole country, it could be fairly argued they were somewhat unfairly punished at the ballot box for doing the right thing in 2010, by ensuring the UK had a stable government for five years. 
In Crawley, with UKIP and the Greens also in decline, we are increasingly a town of two-party politics and I cannot envisage this changing anytime soon. Meanwhile, Labour’s lurch to the far-left has given up any claim they may have had to the political centre ground while at the same time, the traditional party of the centre ground, the Liberal Democrats, have left the stage.   
My view is that Conservatives like me should reach out to Liberal Democrat and centrist Labour voters. We are a genuine broad church of people from all walks of life who want the very best for our town, and we should represent the centre as well as the centre-right. Labour’s shift to the far-left is a place where swing voters and centre-ground voters now feel very uncomfortable. These residents deserve an alternative of a party who is prepared to listen to them, and not to approach everything from an extreme politically-charged point of view.

With the Conservatives being the only realistic alternative to Labour in Crawley, I believe that being a broad church and being able to fairly represent everyone is vital. A future Conservative Administration at Crawley Borough Council led by me will be inclusive and will be driven by the needs and aspirations of the town and its people - not driven by divisive political ideology.

Therefore, I am very keen to hear from anyone who cares about our great town about what you’d like to see our Council do for Crawley. What does the Council do well and what could we improve? What should be our priorities for Crawley? Please do drop me a line at Duncan.crow@crawley.gov.uk"

Friday, 18 September 2015

Crawley Labour Not Financially Credible

This week in my Crawley Observer column, in the same week that Labour appointed the extreme left-wing John Mcdonnell as Shadow Chancellor, I wrote about economic competence at the Council and the ideological refusal of the controlling Labour group to live within the Council's means, by not working towards a balanced Council budget for next year. 
Labour's Shadow Chancellor - John Mcdonnell MP 
"Last week at Crawley Borough Council, Labour passed their budget strategy for 2016 onwards. This sets out the financial plan for the Council and is a key indication of the ruling Administration’s priorities. Incredibly, the Council’s ruling Labour cabinet refused yet again to have a budget strategy that committed to trying to balance the Council’s books each financial year.
Their strategy hopes to try and balance the books over a three-year period but there are several things wrong with this. Firstly, the Council’s budget gap is not (currently) very large so there is no reason other than an ideological political reason, not to address this now. Secondly, a failure to address the budget gap stores up future problems, making the job harder in future years. Thirdly, the goalposts get moved so that we are forever starting in ‘year one’ rather than progressing through each of the three years. This is exactly what happened last year when we were told that 2015 was the first year of three for balancing the Council budget. Now we’re told 2016.

Due to the good fortune of better than predicted business rates the Council eventually managed to balance the books by accident this year, rather than by design. Sooner or later, the budget gap will become huge as such good luck will run out. This will mean stark choices in future years of either slashing services, large increases in Council Tax, or a combination of both.

This problem will have resulted from using left-wing political ideology to determine key decisions at the Council. For me, pragmatism is much more important than political ideology and you cannot get any more pragmatic than living within your means and by being responsible. Sadly, Labour’s lurch to the left following Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory, means that left-wing political ideology is likely to be determining more decisions at the Council, to the detriment of what is best for Crawley.

We Conservatives offer an alternative of working to balance the Council’s books every year, ensuring the long-term protection of vital services and reducing the risk of future high Council Tax rises."

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Labour On The Brink Of Civil War

My Crawley Observer column this week is generating quite a stir. I can't say too much but it is a fact that it would only take one Labour Councillor in Crawley to defect to change the political control of Crawley Borough Council from Labour to Conservative. We are now less than 60 hours to the announcement of the next leader of the Labour party. Once Corbyn's likely win is confirmed, we enter uncharted territory. It won't be pretty.      
Jeremy Corbyn is set to become Labour leader  
"Unless all the predictions are wrong, this coming Saturday will see the Labour party elect left-winger Jeremy Corbyn as their leader. Stuck in a 1970s timewarp, don’t be under any illusion that he won’t be the most politically extreme MP to lead any major political party in modern British history.
It has been well documented that the Labour leadership election has been a complete shambles, including problems such as blatant entryism. It has certainly been apparent that voters made the right choice in May by electing a Conservative government, as Labour have proved themselves unable to competently run a leadership election, yet alone the Country.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party will have a majority of its MPs hostile to him as leader while over half of the party membership will support him. Stuck in the middle will be Labour Councillors - worried that they may have individually aligned to the ‘wrong’ faction.

A period of vicious Labour in-fighting looks likely as the far-left Corbynites seek to purge the Blairites, while the Blairites will fight to reclaim the party for themselves by trying to depose Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Locally in Crawley, I can see how the on-going battle for the control of the Labour party is going to be all-consuming. This is concerning as Labour are nominally in political control of Crawley Borough Council with 19 Councillors to the Conservatives 18. I struggle to see how they can effectively run the Council while a civil war rages within Labour that could last for many years. They are set to be in office but not in control.

Amid the Labour turmoil, the focus of my Conservative colleagues and I continues to be the town we love and working for our local Council to be run for the people of Crawley in the best way possible. To the more moderate Crawley Labour Councillors - my door will be open if you wish to escape the bitter in-fighting. You can talk to me in the strictest confidence about potentially joining the Conservatives - helping to ensure our great town of Crawley remains top priority."

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Jeremy Corbyn Set To Win Labour Leadership

This week in my Crawley Observer column, on the day that new sign-ups for the Labour leadership vote finally stopped, I have written about the shambolic leadership contest and the dangers of entryism. It has tonight been announced that there are 610,000 potential votes in this contest but that only 200,000 of them were members before May's election. We all know where the majority of those new votes will go.

Entryism - helping Jeremy Corbyn go from 100-1 outsider to 1-3 favourite
"If just four months ago, anyone had suggested to me a scenario that in 2020, President Donald Trump could be welcoming Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn to the Whitehouse, I would have laughed and said it was impossible. Fast forward four months and while still unlikely, such an event has now become possible.
Such a weird scenario becoming possible is a symptom of the strange political times we are living in, where the unexpected and bizarre can become reality. I don’t tend to follow American politics very closely and their systems of picking Presidential hopefuls, but I do take a keen interest here in the UK.

The unusual way the Labour Party are conducting their current leadership contest has its roots in the last one. The national choice of their party membership was David Miliband but Ed Miliband got over the line due to Trade Union votes. This was true in Crawley where the local Labour Party publically nominated David Miliband but ended up having to pretend for five years that his brother was the chosen one.
Labour recognised they had to change their leadership election system but what they came up with is increasingly likely to produce the wrong outcome, meaning Labour could have another unelectable leader for another five years. The problem now is that the system they created is open to blatant entryism, with half of all those with a vote having signed up since after the general election. I also suspect that returned votes will be higher among the new ‘members’ than the existing members. Entryism may well make Jeremy Corbyn leader of the Labour Party, as many pundits are saying most people signing up are from even further to the left than Labour.

As I wrote last week, oppositions whether nationally or locally need to be credible and electable. An outcome determined by entryism is not good for democracy and is of course unfair. Potentially, all parties can be at risk from entryism, including down to a local level when choosing candidates, but this Labour shambles is of huge consequence when picking a potential Prime Minister."

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Worth Park Gardens Restored

This week in my Crawley Observer Column, I wrote about the Conservative achievement of the restoration of Worth Park Gardens and how Labour Councillors (including some who have since become very senior at the Council) very nearly cost Crawley £2.42 million of Heritage Lottery Fund investment to restore Worth Park Gardens to their former glory.

Worth Park December 2013 when I was lead councillor for the project  
“Last weekend saw the official opening of Worth Park in Pound Hill, having been restored with an ambitious project devised and implemented by the previous Conservative Administration at Crawley Borough Council. I found it a pleasure to have previously been the Council’s cabinet member that was overseeing this project, and I am delighted that all the hard work has paid off with a park that all of Crawley can be proud of.
It wasn’t always so good. I remember only too well back in January 2012 when Labour Councillors sought to sabotage this project by cynically using council procedures to cause a potentially fatal delay. This delay put at serious risk the £2.42 million funding that we had been successful in securing from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thankfully, Labour’s cynical tactic failed and we haven’t looked back since.

While I am grateful Labour didn’t scrap the Worth Park project when they took control of the Council last year, it is still startling that they take credit for Conservative achievements like this. This fits a pattern of behaviour I've observed since Labour took power at Crawley Council last year.

I recommend checking online to see who really got these good projects moving for Crawley, which are now in full swing or have been completed. To add to Worth Park, other local Conservative achievements that Labour are taking credit for include new and improved Tilgate Park attractions, Ifield West/Dobbins Pond improvements, Ifield Mill Pond restoration, Broadfield Barton revamp, major regeneration of Queens Square, new Crawley Museum, and new equipment for our Children’s Play Areas.
There are two key points here. Firstly, it took a Conservative Administration with vision and aspiration for Crawley to bring these projects forward, often in the face of Labour opposition with no aspiration for Crawley. Secondly, all of these projects could only be afforded thanks to the Conservatives’ sound financial management of the Council.  Labour mostly opposed the efficiency savings we made that enabled us to invest. The reality is that most of these great projects would have never happened if left to Labour.”             

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Should Crawley Have Smoke-Free Zones?

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about how potentially, we could improve the environment of some of Crawley's premier outdoor spaces, by making them smoke-free. 
Our plans to make Queens Square a nicer place
"There is up to a seven year difference in life expectancy between the east and the west of Crawley, as well as big inequalities in health. These differences are matched by the variance in smoking rates between the east and west of the town. Smoking is the biggest single cause of preventable deaths in the UK and the overall smoking rate in Crawley is higher than the national average.
The health benefits are obvious but there are also other reasons to discourage smoking. Cigarettes and other smoking materials are the primary cause of fatal accidental fires in the home, a major cause of outdoor fires, and are the most common form of litter in the UK. Crawley has some lovely places but all too often, they can be spoiled by discarded cigarette ends. They seem to get replaced as fast as the Council can come round and sweep them up.

The city of Bristol has recognised this problem as well as that crucially; de-normalising smoking is the best way to stop young people taking up the habit and to help encourage smokers to quit. In February, Bristol launched voluntary smoke-free zones in two of their large city centre squares as a trial. I am interested in what Crawley residents think about me potentially advocating a policy to trial some of Crawley’s premier outdoor spaces as smoke free areas. Potential places for consideration would be the Memorial Gardens and Queens Square (not including the coffee shop outdoor seating areas), once the major improvement works are completed next year.
Following the regeneration, Queens Square will have interactive water features and will be an attractive place for families with children. I can see real potential for making Queens Square and the Memorial Gardens more pleasant environments for families if no one smoked. However, it is vital that any such schemes have public support in order to work. Therefore, before I discuss my idea with councillor colleagues to see whether or not we should consider advocating site-specific smoke-free zones, I would very much welcome your thoughts. Please do drop me a line at Duncan.crow@crawley.gov.uk"

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Is Crawley the most shameless and undemocratic Labour Council in the UK?

On the 7th of May 2015, there were local elections in Crawley alongside the general election. One third of the Council was up for election. Crawley voted 52% Conservative and 37% Labour.
 

2015 Crawley Local Election Vote Shares

The Conservatives gained two council seats from Labour. The Council became 19 Labour councillors (51.35%) and 18 Conservative councillors (48.65%). In percentage terms, it is believed that Crawley Borough Council’s Conservative group are the largest opposition group out of all 433 principal local authorities in the United Kingdom. They need just one more councillor to take control of the council from Labour.    

The Council has 19 Labour and 18 Conservative Councillors 
 
At Crawley Borough Council there are 19 roles that attract extra payment for councillors, known as Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs). These range from £14,567 for the Leader of the Council down to £1,189 for the Vice-Chairman of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee. Following the elections, Labour appointed 7 of their 19 Councillors to the Council’s Cabinet. They also appointed a Labour Mayor and a Labour Deputy Mayor.

The last Conservative Administration brought in a ruling that only one SRA could be claimed per councillor, as the previous Labour Administration had seen some councillors claiming more than one. Therefore, once the seven-member Cabinet, Mayor, Deputy Mayor as well as the Leader of the Opposition (all paid an SRA) are taken out of the equation, it leaves 10 Labour and 17 Conservative councillors available to be chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Council's committees.
 
27 Crawley Councillors available for committee chairs and vice-chairs

At Crawley's Annual Council meeting on the 29th of May, Labour’s 19 councillors appointed 9 Labour councillors from their available 10 and not a single Conservative councillor to be the Council's 9 major committee chairman and vice-chairmen that receive SRA payments. This includes both posts on the Council’s Scrutiny Committee that is supposed to hold the Council’s Cabinet to account.

The vast majority of other councils have opposition chairman or vice-chairman on scrutiny committees, of which not one of the other 432 Councils are believed to have an opposition group as proportionately large as Crawley's Conservative group. Crawley's previous Conservative Administration always gave committee chairs or vice-chair positions to opposition Councillors.  

All 9 paid committee chairs and vice chairs taken by Labour
 
Crawley Borough Council’s ruling Labour Administration have given 18 out of all 19 of their councillors a role that receives extra SRA payments. Cynically, they claim to believe in fairness and are looking at setting up a 'Fairness Commission' to promote political correctness, or maybe to remind their council tenants to budget for magistrate court fines? The Council's Conservative group have boycotted the panel looking to set up an 'UnFairness Commission' due to Labour’s rank hypocrisy on fairness.

18 of 19 Labour Councillors are being paid an SRA
 
Crawley Borough Council’s Conservative group have 1 out of all 18 councillors with a responsibility that comes with an SRA payment - their group leader as Leader of the Opposition.
1 of 18 Conservative Councillors are being paid an SRA

This is Crawley Labour Councillor Tim Lunnon. He is one of a kind and rarer than a Giant Panda in the UK, because he is the only Labour Borough Councillor in Crawley not in receipt of extra SRA payments. It is not known if he was in China looking for Pandas in this photo. With no further positions at Crawley Council with SRA payments available, it has been speculated that the Labour Council could create an additional post with an SRA just for Cllr  Lunnon, that would enable him to keep up with Champaign quaffing comrades in Crawley's swanky bars and restaurants.   

Cllr Tim Lunnon - Crawley's only Labour councillor without an SRA 

These are the 17 Conservative Borough Councillors in Crawley who are not in receipt of extra SRA payments. The exception is their Leader Duncan Crow (front middle) who as Leader of the Opposition, is their only councillor to be in a position of special responsibility and receiving an SRA.
 
The Conservative Group of 18 at Crawley Borough Council
 
It is hard to see how any fair-minded person can view Labour's actions in Crawley as anything other than sheer greed as well as showing absolute contempt for the democratic verdict delivered by the people of Crawley. By creating such a closed-shop town hall and by displaying an arrogance worthy of FIFA President  Sepp Blatter to Crawley's voters; many will feel that opposition is exactly where this utterly shameless and wholly undemocratic Labour Administration deserve to be after next year's local elections. The people of Crawley will be right to ask if their local Council has become notorious by being the UK's most shameless and undemocratic Labour Council?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Great Result For Crawley

This week, in my first Crawley Observer column since the election, I have written about the positive outcomes in the elections here in Crawley. I am of course delighted to have been re-elected in Furnace Green and to see my colleague Francis Guidera newly elected as Borough Councillor for Tilgate.    
Crawley's winning team in 2015
"Last week’s elections in Crawley provided a very decisive result. I am delighted that Henry Smith has been re-elected as our MP for Crawley, as well as a Conservative majority government being elected to govern the UK. We also had local elections in Crawley and the change-around from last year could not be starker.
Last year’s local elections saw Labour win control of Crawley Borough Council with a combined vote share across the town of 37% to the Conservatives 35%. Last week saw the Conservatives secure 52% of the Crawley-wide vote with Labour receiving 37%, UKIP receiving 6% and all other candidates combined receiving 5%. Our 12 local election candidates received over 6000 more votes than Labour’s 12 candidates. This saw nine Conservative candidates elected to Labour’s three.

This was a fantastic result for Crawley Conservatives and I am grateful to everyone in Crawley who voted for their local Conservative candidate in last week’s local elections. We decisively gained two Council seats from Labour which takes the political make-up of Crawley Borough Council to 19 Labour and 18 Conservative councillors.

The political make-up of the Council is as close as it can possibly be. There has never been an opposition group on Crawley Borough Council larger than 16 Councillors before. The Conservative group is now 18 members strong out of the total of 37, meaning that we represent 48.65% of the Council.
Our 18 Councillors will work with Labour’s 19 Councillors for the benefit of the town and I hope that Labour are accepting of the expressed wishes of Crawley’s voters, by jointly working with us and sharing Council responsibilities among more Councillors than just their own. Our new larger team of Councillors is looking forward to serving the town and will always put the interests of Crawley first.

There will be political uncertainty going forward, but I give an undertaking that the good running of the Council will be paramount for Crawley’s Conservatives. We plan to work with Crawley Labour to ensure this and hope they show mutual respect towards us, so that together we can deliver for Crawley. "

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Crawley's Winning Team For 2015

Four weeks today the 7th of May, is the general election as well as local elections in Crawley, which are in 12 neighbourhoods - the entire town except Broadfield and West Green. Crawley Conservatives has a very strong team of candidates this year, headed up by Henry Smith who has been a fantastic champion for Crawley and who is seeking re-election as our Member of Parliament for Crawley.

Crawley’s 2015 Conservative local election candidates:
Bewbush - Patrick Reid
Furnace Green - Cllr Duncan Crow
Gossops Green - Lisa Vitler
Ifield - Martin Stone
Langley Green - Andrew Jagger
Maidenbower - Kim Jaggard
Northgate - Tina Belben
Pound Hill North - Kevan McCarthy
Pound Hill South - Cllr Beryl MeCrow
Southgate - Jan Tarrant
Three Bridges - Cllr Bob Burgess
Tilgate - Francis Guidera

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Conservatives To Deliver A Further 3 Million Apprenticeships

Last week in my Crawley Observer column, I wrote about employment and apprentices - a real success story for the Conservative-led government. By contrast, Labour have spent this entire parliament resisting all the benefit reforms and economic measures that has helped to make work pay. They not only deserve to lose the election, they deserve to lose big.
"It is a statement of fact that every Labour government has left office with higher unemployment than when they took office, including the last one from 1997 to 2010. By contrast, one of the big successes of the current Conservative-led government has been the creation of an extra 1.85 million jobs, meaning that the UK now has record levels of employment.
While being pleased about this success, we should never get complacent. In a global and rapidly evolving economy, it is essential that British people have the right skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow as well as for the jobs of today. This particularly applies to our young people who were so badly let down by Labour when they were last in government, with one million young people being abandoned as NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training).         

The good news is that youth unemployment in Crawley is now at a record low and that we Conservatives are placing a great emphasis on apprenticeships. Last week the Prime Minister launched the new ‘degree apprenticeships’ so that young people can earn a degree whilst training on the job. We want all our young people to reach their potential and to be equipped with the skills they need to get on in life. By combining real, paid work with high quality training, apprenticeships can help our young people get on the career ladder.
Since 2010, we have already delivered over two million apprenticeships and are committed to delivering a further three million by 2020. The new ‘degree apprenticeships’ take this to the next level. Designed by businesses, universities and colleges these combine the academic study of a degree with the practical experience of high-skilled jobs. Apprentices will be able to earn bachelor’s or even a master’s degrees as part of their apprenticeship.

Equipping people with the skills they need to get on in life and backing businesses to create jobs are key parts of our long-term economic plan. These degree apprenticeships will help build a Britain where everyone has the reward of a meaningful job and a decent standard of living."

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Leadership Coup At Crawley Council?

Two weeks ago in my ever popular Crawley Observer column which is below the picture, I wrote about the economy and the importance of getting that right so that we can fund public services for the long term. Speaking of the Crawley Observer columns, has Cllr Peter Lamb been secretly replaced as Leader of the Council by Cllr Chris Oxlade? I ask this as for several weeks now, Cllr Lamb's Leaders column has been written by Cllr Oxlade.

I offer further evidence for this potential secret leadership coup, as there has been a published change of Cabinet responsibilities at the Council. The (former?) Leader has officially taken over part of Cllr Chris Oxlade's Community Engagement portfolio, by becoming the Council's representative on the Sussex Police and Crime Panel.
I could be on to something here or Labour could just be cynically  promoting their Parliamentary candidate by giving him maximum publicity in his Councillor role. However, whenever one of my group tries to ask a question at Full Council about the blurred  boundaries of the Crawley Labour Parliamentary Candidate being promoted by the Council in his Councillor or his DJ business role, the Labour Mayor always rules the question out of order.       
"Another senior business leader has warned about the economic risks of Labour winning the general election. The Chief Executive of Boots is quoted as saying that Ed Miliband’s plan for power was not helpful for business and would be “a catastrophe” for Britain. It was very telling that in response, rather than address the issues raised, the Labour Party launched a co-ordinated social media smearing campaign against Boots’ Chief Executive.
I place great emphasis on the economy because it underpins everything government and councils do and everything we would like to do. While not being unduly influenced, we do need to listen to businesses that are the wealth creators and politicians need to create the right conditions for business to thrive. Ultimately, a successful economy provides the funding for all the public services we rely on.

No politician should be trusted to deliver on protecting our public services if they are unable to deliver the right economic conditions that provide the money to fund them. Labour is claiming they can fund public services and eliminate the deficit by clobbering the rich. On the face of it, this may sound attractive as the majority of us are not very wealthy so we are led to believe that most of us wouldn’t be affected. However, Labour are taking us all for mugs by trying to appeal to the worst instincts in people, that being the politics of envy.
History has shown that taxes that punish success and encourage wealthy people to move their money abroad and invest elsewhere, has a damaging effect on our economy. As has been evident since Labour crashed the economy in 2008, when the economy suffers we all suffer. In reality higher taxes does not raise more revenue. What it does do is create a downward spiral where thresholds at which taxes are paid have to be lowered meaning the majority of us end up paying more tax in order to stop government revenues falling. Be very wary of politicians claiming they will clobber the rich saying that it won’t adversely affect you, because eventually it always does."     

Friday, 30 January 2015

The 2015 General Election

In my Crawley Observer column on New Year's Eve, I wrote about the 2015 General Election and the risk of Ed Miliband being propped up as Prime Minister by Alex Salmond. Since I wrote this, the likelihood of this terrible scenario has increased.
 
"2014 was an eventful year and I have no doubt that 2015 will be equally so. One certain prediction for 2015 is that there will be plenty of political uncertainty. The general election is only four months away and amid the uncertainty, there are some things regarding its outcome that we can be certain about.
Most people are expecting a huge Parliament, but no credible political pundit is predicting anything other than a Conservative or Labour Prime Minister after the general election. Assuming they are both still in place as party leaders in May, that means either David Cameron or Ed Miliband as Prime Minister.
What is very uncertain in a hung Parliament is who will have the numbers to form a government. My nightmare scenario is that the Alex Salmond SNP tail could be wagging the Ed Miliband Labour dog. The south of England is never a priority for the northern-based Labour Party, but if a Labour government is propped up by the Scottish nationalist SNP, then we can be certain that their policies will be bad for Crawley.
Other potential coalition partners for Labour are the Northern Irish nationalist SDLP who usually sit with Labour in the Commons, and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru. A heavy price that costs us dear here in southern England could be extracted by nationalists outside of England, in order to make Ed Miliband Prime Minister.           
What is certain here in Crawley, is that it will be Conservative or Labour who wins and that the Crawley outcome will have a direct impact on whether the next Prime Minister is Conservative or Labour. We can also be certain that just like in 2014, UKIP will not be anywhere near winning a single Council seat in Crawley, yet alone have any chance of the Parliamentary seat.
Amid all the uncertainty for 2015, I can accurately predict that it is still a two-horse race both locally and nationally. I’m sure everyone will be pleased once the election is over and hopefully for 2015-2020, we can have stability like the Conservative and LibDem Coalition has delivered since 2010."
 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Labour's Sick NHS Scaremongering

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about the NHS and how it is becoming increasingly apparent that scaremongering about the NHS will be a key theme of Labour's general election campaign. This follows their campaigning  failures on the economy, unemployment, the cost of living and freezing utility bills at high levels when they are actually falling. The picture was part of a Labour leaflet delivered last week by the Royal Mail to every home in Crawley. It was generic with no Crawley content so no doubt other Labour target constituencies are receiving it too. This is truly sick and deserves to backfire.

Shameful Labour scaremongering of vulnerable people
"I was pleased to hear from our MP Henry Smith, that Crawley Hospital now has 200 more doctors and nurses than in 2010. Labour downgraded Crawley hospital when last in government so anything to help reverse this is very welcome. My own daughter was born at Crawley Hospital in the late Nineties but Labour’s downgrading means our children and grandchildren can no longer be born in Crawley.
Going forward, we do need to get as much use as possible from Crawley Hospital and the trend since 2010 has been services returning. We now have more resources going into the NHS than ever before with a record number of people accessing NHS services. An example of this is that are now 3,000 more people each day accessing A&E across the country than in the last year of the previous government.

Under the Conservatives, spending on the NHS has been has been protected since 2010. This will continue if the Conservatives are in government after May’s general election. We are also looking to increase access to GP services, especially at weekends. Apart from the obvious convenience for those working Monday-Friday, it cannot be good for our economy if people have to take time off work to see a doctor.

Healthcare and the NHS shouldn’t be political and I don’t like it being a political football. My own view is that we should follow the advice of healthcare professionals and that the two main parties should work together to get a consensus about how to ensure the NHS is sustainable for the future. Unfortunately the Labour party are determined to use scaremongering about the NHS as their main theme for their general election campaign.

This was evident last week when a Labour party leaflet that was delivered by the Royal Mail across Crawley, was virtually all about scaremongering about the NHS. I find it beyond contempt that this Labour leaflet had a mock-up medical bill for NHS patients of “Cancer treatment £30,000 per course” and “Giving birth £19,000”. Sadly, making vulnerable people fearful over something that will never happen is Labour’s underbelly exposed."

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Impact On Housing Of A Gatwick Second Runway

In my first Crawley Observer column of the year, I wrote about the huge increase in local house prices over the last year and how a second runway at Gatwick would turn a local housing problem into a local housing crisis in Crawley and the wider area. 
"I was interested to see it reported that outside of London, the last year has seen house prices grow faster in Crawley than anywhere else in the UK. The very high 22% figure quoted is a double-edged sword and unsustainable.
While it is good to see the economy doing so well, we know there is a supply and demand problem with the population growing faster than new house building can keep up. It is a struggle to stop home ownership becoming increasingly out of reach for many, although the Government’s help to buy scheme has helped many young couples buy their own home and new homes are being built.

We have a housing problem but I am keen to ensure a local housing problem does not turn into a housing crisis. Unfortunately, that is exactly what will happen if Gatwick has a second runway. I sometimes hear a simplistic view that a second runway will be good for Crawley because it will provide jobs for local people who need them. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true that a second runway will see tens of thousands of new jobs in the area. However, with low levels of unemployment in the Crawley travel to work area being the long-term historical norm, it is obvious that huge numbers of people will have to move to the area from the UK and abroad, over and above the existing year-on-year population growth, to fill jobs that cannot be filled locally.

When we are struggling to keep up with the current housing demand, it is clear that a second runway will make this problem much worse. There would be an explosion of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) as prices become ever more unaffordable. This overcrowding and congestion in our local streets and neighbourhoods will negatively change Crawley for ever in so many ways. Residents who may live in quiet streets where parking and traffic currently isn’t a problem, do need to be aware that a second runway will have an irreversible and negative impact on our quality of life in Crawley."

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Solidarity With Our French Friends

Last week in my Crawley Observer column, I wrote about the awful events in France and the reaction to them. There has been a lot of debate about freedom of expression. Naturally, I support freedom of speech, but I do not support personal abuse and trolling which I have seen defended under the 'freedom of speech' banner in the past. It is a debate that will run and run but I guess I see it like this: Do I have the right to offend? Yes. Should I set out to offend? No. As an elected representative, I should choose my words carefully and recognise I represent a very wide range of people, not all of whom will think like I do.

That said, I shouldn't be afraid of speaking the truth as I see it even if it is likely some people will not like what I say. Ultimately, differences of opinion and the right to disagree should be respected. I sometimes come across bullies who can't respect other opinions and who love to dish it out but can't take it back. I find they hate freedom of speech and having their behaviour exposed, including on this blog on occasion.

 
"Last week was truly terrible for France and for Paris in particular. We were all shocked and appalled at the very upsetting events. Unlike the UK and other European countries such as Spain and Norway, France had not been the victim of such vile atrocities for some decades.
Writing after watching coverage of the national unity march, this feels like a watershed moment and the implications for France and Europe feel profound. After this terrible week, it was very heartening to see French people of all backgrounds and religions marching together, putting their shared freedom, democracy and French national identity before any differences.

The unity march was the largest ever protest in French history, with an estimated 3.3 million people across the country. France and its people have taken a stand against those who seek to destroy its liberties and rights. The freedoms of expression and of faith are absolutely fundamental to our way of life in the free world. This is nowhere more precious than here in Europe which saw the end of World War II seventy years ago, where these freedoms were seriously at risk.         
It is easy to forget how close Paris is to us. Geographically, Paris is a similar distance from Crawley as Manchester is. Obviously, language is a barrier to many of us but I prefer to focus on what unites us than what divides us. People here have had great sympathy for France and have shown solidarity with our French cousins in the wake of the assault on their freedoms.
   
Last week was not a time for politics but this will return and it remains unknown how this will play out politically. Here in the UK, we are sometimes told to celebrate diversity but I prefer to respect diversity and to celebrate what unites us. I hope that going forward after the French attacks and unity rally, that people in all European countries from all backgrounds can have a greater sense of shared national identity and will look to celebrate their unity. Ultimately what unites us will always be greater than what divides us."