Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 25th September 2013

Unemployment affects every part of a person’s life and it’s right that we focus on getting people into work. Yet work alone isn’t enough, in Crawley we have some of the highest levels of working poverty in the country, households where the pay check just can’t cover the rising costs of living and as a result housing benefit is necessary to help cover the cost of rent.

For those families affected by the Bedroom Tax, stuck between paying out money they do not have or downsizing to properties which do not exist, Ed Miliband’s announcement that Labour will repeal the Bedroom Tax offers a cause for hope. Nationally a quarter of all those affected by the Bedroom Tax are already in arrears and once winter comes many households will have to choose between keeping up with their rent or heating their homes.

Locally, Labour councillors have been trying to find a way to repeal the Bedroom Tax within Crawley, as a number of other authorities have done nationally. Costs relating to council housing come out of a different account to the one covering other services and there is more than enough leeway in the budget to cover the repeal of the Bedroom Tax in Crawley. Unfortunately the Tories have repeatedly voted down any attempt to help people deal with the problem.

This is not at all surprising. Over the last three years the Labour Party put forward ten motions to council, setting out new policies for the town and dwarfing the number of Conservative motions by far. So far the Conservatives have supported only a single policy.

Last week, the new Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Bloom, said that he was willing to work with the Labour Group. If true, then so much the better, on issues such as this the council has been taking wholly the wrong direction. At the next Full Council Cllr Bloom will have the opportunity to show some real leadership by supporting the town, rather than government, and voting in favour of another Labour motion on the issue.

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