Press Release: Council recover property used as a car workshop

Crawley Borough Council has successfully recovered a property in Three Bridges after discovering that it was being used by the tenant to run a car parts and accessories business.

The investigation was initially launched by the council’s Fraud Investigation Team who received an anonymous tip off, alleging that the tenant was not residing at the address.

The Fraud Team then worked with officers from the Nuisance and Anti-Social Behaviour Team, Housing and the Community Wardens in the process of recovering the property, after it was discovered that the tenant had been using the adjoining residents’ car park to carry out mechanical works on a number of vehicles, including several cars and vans.

The council were awarded an outright possession order at Horsham Court and awarded costs of £424.50. On repossession of the property, various car parts, tyres, tools and rubbish had been left behind.

Councillor Peter Lamb said: “While fraud is incredibly rare, every property lost to fraud is a Crawley family which can’t be housed. Crawley Borough Council is committed to delivering more affordable housing for local people and ensuring every house goes to those residents who need it most.”

Crawley Borough Council’s Fraud Investigation Team can be contacted free and in confidence on 0800 634 0180 or by email to

The Community Wardens investigate all reports of fly-tipping and can be contacted on 07884 492324.

The Nuisance and Anti-Social Behaviour Team can be contacted on 01293 438438.

Press Release: Crawley council makes significant commitment to local construction workers

Crawley council is giving its backing to a Unite Construction Charter that seeks to ensure that conditions for workers on construction projects under local authority control in Crawley meet the highest standards.

Peter Lamb, leader of the council has committed to back the charter and has included the commitment in the Labour council’s manifesto.

The charter commits to working with Unite in order to achieve the highest standards in respect of direct employment status, health & safety, standards of work, apprenticeship training and the implementation of appropriate nationally agreed terms and conditions of employment.

Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley council said: ‘Everyone has the right to a safe working environment and the conditions set out in Unite’s Construction Charter should ensure construction workers are treated fairly and safely on council projects. I don’t see this as setting an example, it’s really the least that any employer should do.

“The council has ambitious plans to invest in affordable homes and to regenerate the town centre as part of a wider economic development and regeneration programme. The charter will cover important local authority construction projects including a range of residential, commercial and public realm improvements.”

Unite regional secretary for the South East Ian Woodland said: “We welcome Crawley council’s significant commitment to construction workers. Unite’s Construction Charter will help local workers to operate in a safe environment on construction sites and to ensure they can raise health and safety issues without fear.

“The council is involved in a number of important projects and workers on those projects will be able to work under the highest standards.”

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 8th August 2018

No one should fault the hard-work and dedication of our police officers, they on a daily basis put themselves in jeopardy to try to keep us safe from harm. Yet, while we applaud the efforts of individual officers, we must confront the clear reality that Sussex Police are no longer able to deal with the pressures they’re facing.

Over the last year, time-and time-again residents have complained to me about crimes going uninvestigated, drug dealing appears to have spread across residential areas and the stabbings we’ve seen over recent months go well beyond any level of violence I can remember in Crawley’s past.

This is not the fault of our local police, it’s the logical result of decisions taken both in Government and by our Police Commissioner, which have left the police without the resources they require to deliver the service Crawley needs. To be silent about the crisis in policing we’re now experiencing is not being loyal to the service, it’s leaving it to the hyenas.

No matter how much you invest in technology, effective policing requires police officers. Yet, during my four years as either a full or substitute member of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, the body responsible for scrutinising the work of the Police Commissioner, our calls to preserve neighbourhood policing went ignored year-on-year. While cuts from Government did necessitate some reduction in neighbourhood policing, the cuts to Sussex Police went millions of pounds beyond these national constraints, simply put: they were a choice.

At first this meant that the police would no longer deal with things which weren’t exclusively police work, then anti-social behaviour issues fell by the way, next low-level crime and now we find them unable to deal with the town’s growing problems with drugs and violence.

At last the Commissioner appears to be waking up and, following a change in national policy, is reversing some of the cuts, but recruiting and training officers doesn’t just happen overnight and in the meantime, I simply do not have confidence that the police will get a grip on the problems Crawley is now facing.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 1st August 2018

There has been lots of discussion this week about Labour’s ‘Build it in Britain’ policy. The basic idea being that when large amounts of taxpayer money are being spent on infrastructure or goods, the Government should try to spend the money in a way which promotes British industry.

The amounts of money we are talking about are huge. The Government spends around £200bn every year on private sector contracts, were that money invested back into the British economy the potential benefits in terms of jobs and incomes is significant. Right now the Ministry of Defence is deciding whether or not to award a £285m contract for constructing Royal Navy support ships to a firm based in Japan, a decision which would have a massively negative impact upon the UK’s own ship building industry.

So, Labour are urging a change of direction, instead of contracting overseas let us award them to British firms, let us stand up for jobs in the UK, and let us help to develop a high-skill, high-wage economy which will benefit the many. It is hard to see where the Government’s opposition to this proposal comes from, the policy is far from unusual. Both Germany and France have shown that building at home promotes the national economy and encourages local innovation, something from which the UK could benefit.

In Crawley, the council is already ensuring money from Crawley is invested back into Crawley. While we are legally required to run an open and fair procurement process for contracts, we have built in a requirement to ensure local firms do not go ignored in the tendering process. The council’s Developer and Partner Charter requires firms with council contracts to provide and promote career and small business opportunities in the Crawley area. We even run a ‘Buy Local’ campaign and support events designed to connect local suppliers and buyers.

There is no reason British businesses lack the skills or ability to deliver on Government contracts and there’s no legal reason they can’t be offered them. Labour thinks we should ‘Build it in Britain’, it certainly makes sense to me.

What does Brexit mean for Crawley?

Over the Summer, John Howarth, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the South East, is hosting a series of guest blogs on his website looking into some of the lesser known implications of Brexit where we live.

As Labour Leader on Crawley BC, I was asked to write about what Brexit means for the area and I took the chance to raise one of the biggest risks currently facing our town, the one which keeps me up at night, if the UK finds itself in a ‘No Deal’ position:

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 25th July 2018

Democracy about the day-to-day, not just an occasional election. Yet, while in Athens the small number of citizens could participate in every debate, in modern times population size and the complexity of issues force us to rely upon elected representatives to plead our case between elections.

Manifestos can set out the bulk of what candidates want to do if we put our trust in them–a contract with voters which makes any breach a scandal. However, the unpredictability of events means much of what representatives are forced to resolve over their term can’t have been covered by a manifesto and therefore they must their own judgement as to what is in our interests–personal and ethical, with the understanding should their judgement fall short we will penalise them for it at the next election.

So, what does that mean in the case of the council? Well, our intended policy programme is set out in manifestos before each election and when we have a majority that’s what we advance as a cabinet and a council. Cabinet members work with officers to turn commitments into policy reports which are taken through the council, where they are scrutinised by other councillors before a final decision is taken at Full Council, on the basis of which Cabinet Members and officers get to work delivering the policy.

This committee process is there to ensure that every policy is thoroughly scrutinised, to ensure its is in best form by the time a decision is taken, with each party then coming to a collective decision as to which way they will vote on the final policy in advance of Full Council. For this process to work effectively, every member needs to play their role. The role of scrutiny is to enhance, not simply criticise, and the duty of opposition is to set out a potentially better course, not just to contradict. Sadly, if last week’s Full Council meeting is anything to go by, many simply see it as a chance to showboat, even if no one is watching and when the costs keep rising for local taxpayers.

Crawley News 24 Column, Wednesday 18th July 2018

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of showing the Greater Brighton Economic Board around our town. The board is made up of a combination of local authorities, education providers, economic groups and businesses covering our region and has responsibility for growing the economy in our part of the South East, with its own council-like structure and budget. From the feedback I’ve received, the tour of both our town centre and Manor Royal left participants amazed by the level of investment and growth taking place in Crawley.

While the City Deal to set the board up was back in 2014, part of the first wave of recent English devolution, Crawley Borough Council only took the decision to join last Autumn. That decision was taken for a number of reasons, partly as an opportunity to access another investment stream for the town and potentially another mechanism for physically bringing schemes forward, but far more important to my mind was the role it could play in lobbying for our area.

Infrastructure in the South East is creaking, with railway capacity alone all but exhausted. While London’s transport has always been well-financed and the North and Midlands are now seeing greater investment, such as with HS2, no serious investment is planned for the South East and unlike those areas we have no Mayor to lobby for our area. To counter this we need far greater co-operation between councils in our patch to ensure that we can provide a unified voice to Government on what we require to meet the needs of our communities and deliver the future we want for our districts, boroughs and cities. For two years we worked to try and deliver this through a devolution deal for Sussex and Surrey, where that plan failed we hope Greater Brighton may yet succeed.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 18th July 2018

We can save Thomas Bennett. Yes, the funding situation is bad, but that’s true of every Crawley school. Yes, PFI makes things even tougher, but Thomas Bennett isn’t the only school to have been rebuilt under PFI. Yet, Thomas Bennett is alone in the scale of the cuts currently proposed, something only mismanagement by its academy chain can explain.

Speaking with local parents, teachers and education experts over recent months, one thing repeatedly comes up in discussions: to save Thomas Bennett we must first remove it from the grasp of the academy chain and restore it to public control. This is something campaigners have been working towards since the scale of cuts proposed for the school became clear and last week, when I challenged our MP at the Tilgate Forum to support the campaign to ditch the academy chain he finally agreed.

Securing the support of our MP is a big step, the call from West Sussex County Council for greater powers to intervene in failing academies is another important development, which just leaves us with one final hurdle in saving the school: the Department for Education.

Under the Conservatives, it isn’t possible to take a school directly back into public ownership. However, it is possible to merge an academy with a council-run school, in the process returning the school to the public. In Hampshire they’ve merged a council primary with a secondary academy, not only restoring public ownership but accessing the benefits of run-through primary-secondary provision, not least the chance to do more with the Special Needs budget by delivering at scale.

However, for Thomas Bennett to be saved we need the support of our local MP, the local county council and the Department for Education. We already have two out of three, what we need now is the Department for Education. It’s the job of an MP to lobby Government on behalf of their constituency and until last year ours was even part of the Education team. We need him to use those connections now, ensuring Thomas Bennett returns to public control and is saved from vicious cuts.

Press Release: Crawley resident faces punishment for fly-tipping

A man who was filmed fly-tipping near where he lived has been successfully prosecuted by Crawley Borough Council.

Peter Harpham, of Waterside Close, Bewbush pleaded guilty to an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (11 July).

In April 2017, the council received an anonymous tip-off that a man was fly-tipping in a residential car park in Gasson Wood Road, Bewbush. Community Wardens attended the scene and were provided with video footage by a witness, which showed a large amount of rubbish being dumped from the back of a tipper van.

An investigation led by the council’s Fraud Team gathered evidence which identified Mr Harpham as the culprit and the van he used in the fly-tipping was uninsured, untaxed and without an MOT.

Mr Harpham was sentenced by the court to a 12 month Community Order and ordered to pay £171 in compensation, which was the cost of clearing up the rubbish. In addition, he also received a 12 month driving disqualification and a three month curfew.

The council hopes the prosecution will serve as a reminder that incidents of fly-tipping are taken extremely seriously and that it will take the firmest of action where it has the evidence to do so. All residents have a duty of care to ensure their waste is disposed of properly and legally.

Leader of Crawley Borough Council, Councillor Peter Lamb, said: “The council will always work to use its powers and resources as effectively as possible to maintain the attractive appearance of our town. This is a great result for the many council officers who have worked to put a stop to this sort of unacceptable behaviour.”

The Community Wardens will investigate all reports of fly-tipping and can be contacted on 07884 492324.

Crawley News 24 Column, Wednesday 11th July 2018

Last weekend, I was out with other Labour councillors and activists in Queens Square and at Broadfield Barton celebrating our NHS’s 70th Birthday. As part of our celebration we were handing out birthday cake and asking members of the public to sign giant birthday cards for past and present NHS workers, letting them know despite the pressures they’re facing Crawley residents are behind them.

Our NHS is part of what makes this country great, the principle your right to life shouldn’t be based on what you earn or who your parents were. Residents were extremely keen to sign the cards and leave their personal messages of support, sadly many also wanted to tell us how concerned they were for the services’ future. It’s a concern I share.

Crawley’s NHS provision has never faced as great a threat as it does today. Our town’s Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for financing all our local health needs, has been in Special Measures for the last year as they can’t afford to pay for all the healthcare we need with the budget the Government has allocated, raising concerns over the future rationing of care. Meanwhile, GP provision in the town is now at the point of breaking.

Our MP promised us £350m a week in new NHS funding when he campaigned heavily for Brexit, money which has now been proven to have never existed. Even the latest announcement on NHS funding falls far short on what healthcare experts say is needed. It’s not over-the-top to say that NHS funding is a matter of life and death and the Government have proven themselves either unwilling or unable to deliver. All the figures now show, without a major change at the top we won’t be celebrating the NHS’s 80th Birthday a decade from now.