After reading last week’s Observer Labour column, the old saying of “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” sprang to mind. It was disappointing that Labour’s County Council Group Leader was selective with facts and disingenuous with information, intentionally leaving out context that provides the full picture. An example being his highlighting of the cost of redundancy payments, but not mentioning the ongoing major annual savings thereafter following restructures. With Labour in Crawley, it is all about trying to secure political advantage, not genuinely trying to address difficult issues.
The Labour Group’s performance at the County Council is woeful with literally no positive contribution. My own observations from the fortnight before the summer recess deserves exposure. On Tuesday, the Planning Committee had no Labour County Councillors attending. Wednesday saw a whole Council event to discuss the awarding of the new Highways Contract and service levels - no Labour County Councillors attended. Friday was the Performance and Finance Select Committee to discuss key finance issues - no Labour County Councillors attended. The following week was the Full Council meeting and only two Labour County Councillors turned up, with much of the day only having one present in the Council chamber.
West Sussex County Council is facing unprecedented financial challenges, mainly due to a rapidly growing elderly population, both in number and increased life expectancy. This is hugely increasing demand on adult social care services, but there are also pressures with the cost of children’s’ services, with more children needing care, plus a large increase of children with special educational needs. At the same time, annual government funding has reduced by £145 million over the last few years as the Treasury closes the record budget deficit left by the previous Labour Government.
Yes, we need more money from Government and we continue to make a very strong case for that, but we also need to make the best of the resources we have. This means County Councillors actually turning up to meetings, having a constructive engagement and working to maximise the resources we have, not pursuing an agenda of shallow political opportunism.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
7th August 2019