Our economy continues to perform well under the Conservatives but we should never take a healthy economy for granted. Doing so is possible when we’ve had eight years of economic growth with our economy now being 17% larger than in 2010. My expectation is it will be when we as a country do take a strong economy for granted, that we end up with the next Labour Government. Of course, those of us with long memories know what will then mean for our economy.
I want to highlight consumer spending and some trends that are happening within a strong economy, some of which are not always welcome. If some trends that are causing problems are happening when the economy is performing well, you do have to wonder what would happen in a recession.
Consumer spending increased last month, which is usually a good indicator of a healthy economy. Barclaycard reported a 5.1% increase in spending compared to a year earlier, while the British Retail Consortium said total sales rose by 4.1%. What these good headline figures don’t show is the ongoing switch from traditional retail spending to online spending. So while many online retailers are performing incredibly well, many high street retailers are struggling and we’ve seen some high profile casualties in recent weeks and months. Some chains have gone into liquidation while others are reducing their total number of stores across the country.
As a growing town, Crawley has fared better than many other towns but we still have an issue of unsightly and derelict empty shops, particularly in some parts of our town centre. Rents and business rates are high and these combine with the changing nature of retail to make trading in the town centre challenging for many. We are also seeing changes in banking. This year has seen both Barclays and Lloyds bank branches in Three Bridges close down and the RBS in Crawley High Street is closing down at the end of July. Our town centre has seen many improvements over the years but we still have more to do to ensure that it thrives.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
11th June 2018