It is traditional at this time to take a look back at the departing year and I do so with a few highlights from a council perspective.
Some twenty percent of Crawley’s housing is managed by Crawley Homes – the council’s landlord function. Early in the year, the Audit Commission found this to be a poor service with uncertain prospects for improvement. A prerequisite for making progress is self-awareness and acknowledgement of problems that exist. In that vein, we are giving top political and managerial priority to improving this core service for our tenants.
For the second year running, Crawley Council set a council tax rise of just two percent which was well below inflation. This was the lowest tax rise of all the councils and police authorities across West andEast Sussex. We did this recognising that over the previous decade, council tax had more than doubled without a comparable improvement in services.
In May, the Conservatives were returned for the third year in a row with 26 out of the 37 council seats. At the beginning of 1998 there were just two Conservative councillors out of the then 32-member council. This was a remarkable political turnaround and showed how elected representatives could not take voters for granted.
We launched several exciting new services. “Scores on the Doors” (www.scoresonthedoors.co.uk) provides food hygiene ratings for local food premises that the council has inspected. There are more than 550Crawley food businesses on the database making this a valuable source of reference.
The council also introduced a pilot green waste collection scheme via the take-up of 4,000 green bins in this first wave. We will be reviewing how we might extend this service. By accessing improved waste separation technology, we can now recycle glass via the existing red-top bins.
It has also been a year of strategies. That can sound dry but the need to know where we are going is quite important. Examples of strategies approved this year include heritage, climate change and housing asset management.
We have taken steps to increase the delivery of neighbourhood centre improvements and residential environmental improvements. This year has seen the completion of works on Northgate Parade and the project for Ifield Parade will start in 2009.
The council has continued its investment in youth facilities with more than £1.3 million allocated to 90 play projects including 74 outdoor play areas, four kick-about areas and youth shelters. We launched the new Venture Play Service for young people which will help us realise the full potential of the major improvements made to our four adventure playgrounds.
Looking to the future, significant progress was made towards delivering new housing west of Bewbush. This was achieved in partnership with Horsham District Council.
In 2008, we were faced with a number of unexpected global events and we had to navigate through the local consequences. I expect that 2009 will test us in different ways but this is fine. We like a challenge.
Councillor Bob Lanzer, Leader of Crawley Borough Council
30th December 2008