Alderman Bert Crane

It’s sometimes said that a person has taken on so much of a place that they’ve become part of the fabric of the building. That was certainly true when it comes to Bert Crane and Crawley Town Hall.

Tonight, people gathered to unveil a portrait of Bert at the Town Hall, perhaps that status of being part of the building has now gone from the metaphorical to the literal.

Bert managed 58 consecutive years on Crawley Borough Council, an achievement beyond that of any other member of English local government.

Yet, I’ve never considered longevity on a council as much of an achievement in its own right. What mattered wasn’t the number of years but what he did with them, shepherding the New Town from its infancy to one of the most economically and socially successful places to live in the UK. That was the unparallelled achievement.

In many ways a portrait is a odd way to pay tribute to Bert, he was always more interested in building more council housing or securing new park land than gaining recognition, but it helps us to remember not just the man but what we should all strive to accomplish as councillors.

At the end of the day a council isn’t a building, it’s men and women working to make things better for the community they live in and as, in the 70th year of the New Town, we continue to develop and redevelop Bert will be moving on with us and finding a new home in Crawley’s New Town Hall.

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