State of the Borough 2009

 On Thursday 29th January, Crawley Council hosted its third State of the Borough debate at the Hawth.  The title was taken from the American State of the Union address and then implemented with slightly less grandeur.  On the panel taking questions, I was joined by Councillors Duncan Crow (Deputy Leader of the Council), Brenda Smith (Leader of the Labour Group) and Gordon Seekings (Leader of the Liberal Democrats).  For anyone not able to attend Question Time the previous week, I hope that this event provided a worthwhile alternative.  We will be placing the transcript on the internet and people will then be able to make their own judgements. 


 One of the enjoyable aspects of being Leader of the Council is the sheer variety that the role has.  In a typical week, there is the opportunity to work with a diverse range of people and partners in delivering priorities and services forCrawleypeople.

A Matter of Interest

Many savers have been affected by falling interest rates and Crawley Council has felt this more than most. To help fund our services we need to use interest on our savings. Back in July 2008, we were predicting that we would receive £4.4 million of interest in the 2009/10 financial year. That figure could now be reduced by some £1.7 million which is a major gap to fill.

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.