Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 1st January 2020

A Happy New Year to all readers.

Since I started writing this column, I have typically used the New Year’s edition to take a look back over the past year to sum up the key moments of the year in the town and at the council. Much as I would like to do so again, the reality is that my overriding memory of 2019 was of one never ending election cycle.

In May we had Crawley’s first all-out council elections in fifteen years, delivering essentially no changes in the overall composition of the council, followed straight after by European Parliamentary Elections. Due to the sad death of Cllr Petts, in September we then had by-elections in his county council and borough council seats, before rounding off the year with a General Election a fortnight before Christmas. If there’s one wish I have for the coming year it is that we have fewer elections and more actual governing in 2020.

Certainly there’s a lot which needs to be done. Brexit is now essentially guaranteed and the Withdrawal Agreement should at least give us some reasonable continuity on the ground as the UK goes into the next of many further rounds of negotiations with the EU.

Meanwhile decisions to be taken this year around the proposed development of 10,000 houses in Horsham District on border of Crawley and the planned expansion of Gatwick clearly have major implications for the future of our community.

Longer-term, we need to continue to prepare the town for the changes set to come, one in which our economy will run fundamentally differently. That means upskilling and reskilling workers to adapt as many of our current jobs automate, all the while converting our local economy over to zero-carbon running. We’re taking big steps on the ground to get things moving in the right direction, particularly in rolling-out the digital infrastructure, but it remains to be seen if we will get the support we require to deliver the changes we need at the necessary speed, or whether after a decade of cuts we are again asked to do even more with less.

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