#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 14th August 2013

Our town faces many challenges in the years ahead, some big, some small and all of which require considerable vision and leadership for Crawley to thrive. Perhaps the biggest issue facing most people these days is the rising cost of living, somehow pensions and pay packets don’t seem to stretch as far as they used to.

It’s not a surprise. Taking rising prices into account, wages in the South East have fallen by 5.5% since the election, about £1,368 a year. In fact, since Cameron became Prime Minister real wages have dropped for 36 months, more months than any other Prime Minister ever. By 2015 the average household will have lost almost £7,000.

Clearly this is a problem; Governments are rightly judged on what they do for ordinary people and Labour are working on policies to deal with the cost of living without raising total government spending, despite what the Tories claim.

Throughout the country Labour councils are helping residents tackle the rising cost of living. From mass-switching schemes to give residents the best deal on their utilities and property market interventions to reduce rents to attracting better paying jobs into areas and investing in new services—like childcare—to reduce the cost for residents, Labour councils are getting results.

Locally we have already successfully fought for the introduction of the Living Wage at the council. Much more needs to be done to ensure other local employers realise the benefits of the policy, but it’s at least a start

Times are hard for local authorities, by 2016 councils will have lost almost half of their income. But that makes it more, not less, important for councils to be creative, to get every bit of use they can out of every pound and focus on providing the services of the future, rather than those of the past.

None of this is easy, confronting the challenges we now face requires both vision and leadership, but the Labour Group stands ready and united to take the difficult decisions and build a council that’s fit for the future.

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