Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 13th May 2020

The news that Virgin and British Airways are set to pull out of Crawley forms a very sad episode in the history of the town and has come as a shock to many, not least to those individuals now facing unemployment and their families.

I’m afraid to say that as things stand these job losses are only the beginning of what we seem set to face over the next few years. From the start of the lockdown I’ve warned that Crawley was likely to be one of the hardest hit communities in the country and analysis by Centre for Cities and Hatch Regeneris confirmed this weeks before BA made their announcement.

While Virgin are set to cut 3,000 jobs, the data indicates that 53,000 jobs–57% of the town’s employment, is at risk. Many of these jobs are of course attached to the airport and its supply chain, but almost no sector of employment will be entirely untouched.

Gatwick Airport is the largest source of employment between London and the coast, the amount of money it brings into the local area is vast and it circulates through all local businesses, not least through the pay packets of its workforce. Reductions in aviation means less money circulating through the local economy and that will affect everyone.

I don’t believe it’s possible to overstate how serious this is, but the more daunting things seem the more important it is that we fight for our community. Before BA’s announcement I co-wrote a letter with our local MP setting out the problem facing the town and the types of Government support which would help to avert an economic crisis in Crawley, recent news only confirms how vital it is that they act.

While the current crisis cannot be weathered without Government intervention, that is no excuse for those on the ground to sit idle, which is why Crawley Borough Council are bringing together local businesses and other public bodies to identify actions we can take individually and collectively to deliver economic recovery for Crawley. Times are tough, but if we stick together we will make it through.

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