Last week I explained how our County Council has hugely greater financial pressures than our Borough Council, in part because of the ever- rising demand for adult social care as life expectancy increases. By contrast, Crawley Borough Council is one of the wealthiest local authorities in England due to the historical sale of council housing which has generated tens of millions in reserves that are used to provide the Council with a very substantial income. This enabled it to allocate millions upfront for a new town hall to replace a building barely over 50 years old and I note that Crawley Borough Council has just reported a £300,000 annual budget underspend.
I also wrote last week how I’m concerned that the County Council’s financial pressures are so great it is considering potentially withdrawing its discretionary homelessness support which equates to £250,000 a year for Crawley Open House. Rather than playing politics with such an important issue, my colleagues and I are having a constructive engagement with the County Council to try and prevent this. I’ve since learned that Crawley Borough Council (the statutory authority for preventing homelessness) only funds Crawley Open House with £50,000 a year. If I were Council Leader I would have earmarked Crawley’s surplus £300,000 for homelessness prevention.
I am disappointed to hear reports that Crawley Labour Councillors are misleading people by knocking on doors saying “the Tories are closing Crawley Open House”. Let me make this very clear - if the County Council genuinely can’t continue with some or all of this discretionary funding from next year, then I will table an amendment at Crawley Borough Council’s budget meeting next February for CBC to continue with this funding.
My Conservative colleagues will support my amendment and with a Labour majority on the Council of just three, it takes only two Labour Councillors to back my proposal for it to pass. One way or another, Crawley Open House will NOT be closing down. We’re determined that the public funding it needs will continue for the good work they do in turning around the lives of homeless people.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
12th September 2018