Local government is responsible for almost a quarter of public spending, so it’s not surprising councils have seen significant cuts under the Government’s austerity agenda. Yet, while Cameron praised councils in 2010 as the ‘most efficient’ part of the public sector, during his term of office council budgets have shrunk twice as fast as central government’s.
Nevertheless, Crawley has found ways to adapt to the unequal cuts we’ve faced and under Labour the council has focused on generating new revenue to fund services, rather than simply cutting away.
Leisure and cultural services provides a clear example of this. Crawley Borough Council provides many of the town’s leisure attractions, from K2 and the Hawth to Tilgate Park and adventure playgrounds. Given that leisure isn’t a statutory service it has traditionally been an area vulnerable to cuts. Certainly other councils have taken this route since 2010, but not Crawley.
Rather than closing attractions, or at least scaling them back, the council is increasing what’s on offer. Last week’s Observer carried the story of the council’s plans to bring new animal attractions into the Nature Centre, steps are already in place to upgrade the adventure playgrounds and there are proposals being drawn up for the next stage of K2.
How is this possible? Because by improving the range of leisure opportunities in Crawley residents, and those from further afield, want to use we can increase the revenue our attractions generate.
By investing in the town’s leisure infrastructure we can not only improve the opportunities for residents to relax and have fun but balance the books and ward off future attempts to privatise these services, as happened to the Hawth under the Tories and where proposals were drawn up to hand over the Nature Centre.
Crawley’s attractions belong to its residents, it would be wrong to close them down or hand them over to companies. Labour offers another way; a way which ensures the council can both run a balanced budget and provide improved leisure experiences for local residents. We believe there’s an alternative to both deficits and endless cuts, we believe in Crawley.