Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 19th December 2018

With less than a week left before Christmas Day, I’ll resist the temptation to discuss our ongoing national turmoil and its implications for Crawley, or the latest improvements to the town being driven by Crawley Borough Council, and focus on something more seasonal.

Amongst all the fun with friends and family, the gift giving, and the food and the drink maybe we should take some time to consider those for whom Christmas will be very different.

Almost a million people in the UK have to work on Christmas Day. The most obvious groups affected work in our NHS, the blue-light services and the armed forces, without whom lives would be lost. However, they’re far from alone. We also need people to keep our utilities working, provide hospitality through the day, and keep our transport system operating. Locally, much of Gatwick continues to operate throughout the day. True, some of those working volunteer, but for many this isn’t the case and, contrary to popular belief, they aren’t all compensated for the inconvenience.

Next, there are the town’s homeless. Ironically, Christmas is, relatively speaking, not so bad as it’s the one time of year the public wake up and feel the duty to support local homeless shelters. It’s the other 364 days a year that Christmas Spirit could really be used.

Lastly, there are those for whom the basics of Christmas are something they can barely afford, if afford at all. In-work poverty has grown appallingly over the last eight years as cuts to public services and benefits have had their inevitable impact. As I pointed out two weeks ago, we now live in a town where over a quarter of local children are forced to live in poverty.

Now none of this should stop our enjoyment of the season, but when we consider the sacrifices and sufferings of those around us, perhaps when it’s over we ought ask ourselves if as a country we are doing everything we should to make their lives at least a little better.

With that thought, I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

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