Question Time

 We are pleased to welcome BBC Question Time to The Hawth on Thursday 22nd January.  This long-running programme has become essential viewing for many people interested in politics.  It is good to see the show coming to Crawley which is the most marginal parliamentary seat in the country with the incumbent MP having a majority of just 37 votes.  I do not know who will be appearing on the programme but I am sure that there are many possible contenders.

Look Back

 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. 

Compliments of the Season

We are near the end of a year of extraordinary economic shocks made all the more dramatic by the communications channels of today’s world.  Hardly anyone can be left untouched by the turbulence that was apparently triggered by the American sub-prime mortgage market.  Who had even heard of the expression “sub-prime” before it was too late?  We all know its meaning now.

Tight Settlement

 The Labour government has given Crawley Council a grant increase of just 0.5%, £52,000, to run our services in 2009/10.  You might call this a tight settlement at 50p perCrawleyresident.  It is hardly generous by any measure when the retail price index rose by 4.2% in the year to October 2008.  This means that Crawley is seeing a cut of 3.7% in real terms at a time when the government is encouraging us to introduce so-called free services.  The grant increase of £52,000 will hardly contribute much to our base budget of £22.3 million.

The Right Climate

 Last week,CrawleyCouncil adopted its Corporate Climate Change Strategy. The strategy will support our long-term vision to be a carbon-neutral council and town by 2050.  This is a challenging target but necessary to show community leadership.  We have already been reducing the council’s carbon footprint.

Town Centre North

 On Thursday 27th November, Crawley Council made a landmark decision for the huge Town Centre North development scheme.  We endorsed the Development Agreement with Grosvenor, our scheme partner.  Once Grosvenor’s board approves the document, the scheme can proceed to the next stage which will include planning applications for consideration by the council.  A useful perspective on the development scheme can be seen at


 Nowadays local authorities achieve more and more in partnership with others.  Crawley Council is no exception.  Part of this change has been brought about by a worthy government agenda promoting shared services to improve delivery to customers and to make efficiency savings.  For example,Crawleyhas partnered with Horsham Council to provide building control services and with Mid Sussex Council on health and safety and emergency planning.   Despite this, it is possible that government has overestimated the economies that might be achieved because there are some practical considerations around delivering shared services. 

Value for Money

 The independent Audit Commission compares local authorities against a number of factors including council spending per head of population before charges are taken into account.  On that measure,Crawleyis seen as a high spending local authority which is not necessarily a bad thing but should be coupled with evidence of consistent customer satisfaction.  It is therefore important not to be complacent and to continue to seek ways to improve our services and the value for money that they provide.

Change in America

 The landmark election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States has dominated the news.  It was a momentous occasion demonstrating the power of democracy and inspiring belief in that system of government.  There was a high turnout of people motivated to cast their vote for change.  It was refreshing to see voters going to the polling stations in such large numbers in scenes reminiscent of younger democracies such as South Africa.  This contrasted strongly with the apathy that has gripped many countries with a longer heritage of universal suffrage.

Faith, Belief and Culture

Last week at The Hawth, we saw the launch of the first-ever Crawley-specific Faith, Belief and Culture Guide.  It is the result of a collaboration between Crawley Interfaith Network and Crawley Borough Council as well as a number of other groups who have contributed.  The document can be viewed on the Council’s website –