Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 13th March 2019

Last weekend I was a guests on Sunday Politics South East, alongside Sussex’s Police Commissioner, the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and the Leader of Medway.

Being up against three Conservatives might seem a little unbalanced, but four years on West Sussex County Council provided plenty of experience standing up for our area in the face of larger Conservative opposition.

The main story was the rise of crime in our area–a regular story these days–and the fact Sussex Police are funding a boxing club in Hove to try and prevent children being dragged into crime.

Now, I don’t have a problem with this idea, in fact when West Sussex closed much of Crawley’s youth provision we warned them crime and anti-social behaviour would increase, something they denied at the time. Yet, boxing clubs aren’t going to fix the crime already on Crawley’s streets, that requires police officers. Almost 800 officers and PCSOs have been taken from the Crawley area under the Conservatives, current recruitment plans only restore a fraction of that number.

However, if we want to talk about prevention, let’s talk about real prevention. Let’s talk about why Pupil Referral Units lack the capacity to deal with the numbers of children being excluded from schools. Let’s talk about schools who no longer have the resources to help children who are struggling and consequently misbehave. Let’s talk about why more children than ever before are being taken into care. Let’s talk about the huge increase in families where the adults are in work, often with multiple jobs, and yet still living in poverty.

Our communities are breaking down because our public services are breaking down; our public services are breaking down because there is no longer the investment. Until that’s fixed, these problems won’t be.

Remarkably our Police Commissioner–who, remember, has just increased the police’s bit of council tax by 14.5%–claimed there’s already enough money in the system, it’s just misspent. Given that in Crawley the only public sector body whose finances are currently in working order is Labour-run Crawley Council, I’ll leave the conclusions to you.

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