Delivering better life chances, for people of all ages, is the core of my work as a Labour council leader.
Since becoming Leader, I have sought to achieve this through focusing the council’s efforts on the three things which have the greatest impact upon people’s life chances: jobs, housing and community. Of these things, the area the council has the least control over is employment, yet nothing has so great impact an upon people’s life chances.
While Crawley has historically been blessed with low unemployment, we have the second highest jobs density in the country outside London, over the years much of the skilled employment in light industry has been replaced with lesser skilled and consequently lower paid roles. Well-paid work does still exist in the town, but far too many of these positions are currently taken up by those commuting into the area rather than residents and the growth of internet shopping and automation means the jobs currently employing Crawley workers are increasingly at risk.
Our goal is to not only help people into work but to access better careers, whether it’s a first job or a last. That’s why we restructured the council to create an economic development team, with a dedicated Head of Service, and created the town’s first Jobs and Skills Plan, detailing clear steps for addressing the jobs gap. Last week, the first of the plan’s cornerstone projects ‘Employ Crawley’ was launched, a new service to help Crawley residents to access the jobs, skills and training support they need to get onto a better career path. It’s a first step, not a last.
Crawley has one of the UK’s most vibrant economies, Crawley Labour is determined our residents will get a fairer share of the benefits. It’s an ambitious goal, but one we believe in.