The Budget is in and everyone is pawing over the detail to see how they come out of it, something which for local authorities won’t become clear until a further announcement later in the year.
As a council leader you might expect my main concern would be what Crawley Borough Council gets out of the Budget, but that’s not the case. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot we could do for Crawley with more money, but since taking control of the council Labour has worked hard to find money to replace anything we’ve lost from central government, meaning we’re still spending the same on services today as we were when I became Leader.
No, what bothers me is other public services, those which didn’t take Crawley Labour’s approach, leading to services suffering cuts year-on-year. These are services residents depend upon, they’re the services I now receive the most complaints about and yet they’re services over which Crawley Borough Council has no control.
One bit of good news is that West Sussex County Council is set to receive new funding for several areas they’re facing cost pressures, further undermining the argument that closing homeless hostels is necessary to balance their budget.
But, locally that’s where the good news ends. While there was money in the Budget for the NHS, the General Practitioners Committee has raised concerns that none of it is committed for GP provision. In Crawley, our GP provision is in desperate need for financial support, with people struggling to access care and the body responsible for funding healthcare in Crawley has been in Special Measures due to a lack of money since Summer last year.
The Police too are in desperate need of investment to replace the 700 officers lost in our area under the Conservatives, with hundreds more at risk due to proposed pension changes. Yet there was no money in the Budget to help the Police tackle the increase of drugs and violence in Crawley.
Decent public services cost money, yet under this Government they appear to have no chance of getting it, leaving residents to suffer.