Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 5th September 2018

Crawley Open House is at threat of closure due to West Sussex County Council cuts, but some people seem more interested in ‘managing the politics’ than playing any useful part in saving the charity. So, let’s quickly run through the facts.

Crawley Borough Council is Crawley’s housing authority, helping people access housing and managing council properties, but West Sussex County Council has responsibility for vulnerable adults. That’s why the Government has always given the money to look after rough sleepers, domestic abuse victims and elderly residents with special housing needs to the county council. To this day, West Sussex owes a responsibility towards these residents.

Under Labour funding for these services came in the form of a ring-fenced grant which could only be spent supporting those groups. In 2011, the Conservative Government removed the ring-fencing. The key point here is the money wasn’t cut, the Government just said it was up to the county council how they spent it and until now they’ve continued to fund services for vulnerable adults, including Open House.

West Sussex are now planning to cut all of this funding, not only closing Open House but every other shelter and support for the elderly with special housing needs, a cut amounting to £6.3m out of their £529m budget. Henry Smith says Crawley Borough Council should step in to make up the difference. We’ll always do what we can and already make a significant donation to Open House, but we have a budget of just £14m. Having been the Leader of West Sussex and served as a borough councillor, Henry Smith knows what he’s suggesting isn’t realistic, but for him this seems to be a political issue which needs managing, rather than the moral issue I believe it to be. At the time of writing, he still hasn’t signed our petition to save Open House.

Under West Sussex’s constitution, with enough signatures we can force a full debate on the proposed cuts and hopefully save Open House, but we need the support of everyone who genuinely cares. If you want to do your part, please go to: https://www.change.org/p/louise-goldsmith-save-crawley-open-house

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