Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 28th September 2016

Like millions of British citizens I’m a member of 38 Degrees, the mass-online pressure group named after the angle at which enough snowflakes can start an avalanche. One of the group’s most effective campaign techniques is co-ordinating mass-emailings of decision-makers on an issue, which as a councillor means I’m sometimes in the odd position of having 38 Degrees ask me to email myself on a subject.

Clearly, given I’m a member I’m likely to already support the position local members are asking me to adopt and while responding to everyone’s emails can take some time it’s nice to see the strength of feeling which exists in Crawley on issues which really matter.

One of the campaigns the group have recently begun seeks to apply pressure to MPs, but on a subject relating to local authorities. 38 Degrees want councils to have the legal obligation to maintain their parks, recognising that with the ongoing cuts to local government budgets many authorities are being forced to focus only on those areas where they have existing legal obligations.

There’s something to this idea, councils have been hit by the hardest cuts to their funding of any part of the public sector and in many places that has forced councillors to prioritise services which are a matter of life and death over those which about residents’ quality of life. Perhaps there should be a legal obligation for councils to maintain parks, but that goes hand-in-hand with a need for a fairer funding settlement from central government. There’s only so many ways councils can cut the same cloth in meeting all their obligations.

In Crawley we don’t need a legal obligation to recognise the importance of the town’s parks. We’re proud of what generations of Labour councillors did to provide parks for the town and the work which has gone on to enhance them in the period since. Tough decisions have to be made but we choose to prioritise generating revenue from new activities over cutting back what the council does. The future of Crawley’s parks will always be safe under its local Labour council.

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