It’s now 18 months since the Government, in the run-up to the General Election, promised voters in Crawley that they would invest £25m in the town. At the time I was criticised for saying I doubted Crawley would ever see any of the money and after a year and a half we still haven’t seen a penny, despite having to waste hundreds of hours of council officers’ time to jump through their bureaucratic hoops.
In normal times, the Government defaulting on this pre-election promise would be disappointing and further evidence of the worthlessness of a commitment from the Johnson Administration, but these are not normal times. Crawley, whose economy had grown by a quarter during my time as council leader, has been hit harder by the economic impact of the Government’s COVID-19 restrictions than any other in the country is now facing mass-unemployment.
Had we received the investment we needed in time, how many more local businesses could we have helped, how much further would we be along the road to attracting new industries to the town? Even if the money does come now, it will arrive after much of the damage has already been done, meaning thousands of households having to wait longer to access employment again.
To be clear, this isn’t even money which has been committed in response to the current emergency, it was funding promised to 100 towns in England before a single case of COVID-19 had been diagnosed. The council is working hard to try to safeguard local jobs, attract new employers into the town and ensure the town centre remains viable, but having lost 56% of our funding to cuts over the years we can’t do this without Government support. The bare minimum residents have a right to expect is what was already promised.
The UK is the only major economy to have failed to protect their aviation sector and the Government’s approach decision-making, filled with u-turns and last minute changes, means our country has suffered a bigger economic hit than almost any other. Families are struggling, we need the Government to keep their promise.