Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 15th October 2014

Last Thursday a number of by-elections took place across the county, including one in Crawley. While eyes were focused on contests further north, locally Labour won Southgate with a 9% swing to the party since winning the ward back in May.

I’m very grateful to residents for supporting the new Labour administration and I know Mike Pickett will be a strong champion for the community. This by-election was almost certainly the last electoral contest which will take place in Crawley before the General Election and, while it would be wrong to make predictions based on a single result, Labour has gained increasing numbers of seats in Crawley with increasing majorities at every local election since the last General Election.

Elections aren’t won in a day, but in thousands of conversations on the doorstep. These conversations go far beyond electioneering, they help us to stay in touch with local priorities and in 2014 formed the basis of our manifesto.

While the Government retreats back into Westminster to lick its wounds after the Scottish Independence Referendum, I believe if the referendum showed one thing it’s that politicians should trust and seek to engage with the public more, not less. Last week, the Labour Cabinet at Crawley Borough Council voted through an improved Petitions Scheme, giving residents greater input into council decisions, and there is much more we can do locally to give people a direct say into decisions which affect their community, while Labour is nationally committed to introducing votes at 16.

Sadly, Conservative-controlled West Sussex County Council seems to have a very different approach, seeming to have done their best to hide proposed changes to the Fire Service from the public, with the consultation taking place over August and with the county’s own former senior fire officers disputing the accuracy of the council’s claims. This Friday, Crawley’s Labour councillors will make a last attempt to stop the town from losing a third of its fire engines and all of its retained firefighters, but without Crawley’s Conservatives putting the town first at this stage it is hard to see the attempt succeeding.

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