A year on from COVID-19 reaching the UK, it is hard to overstate the effect it has had on Crawley. Our town’s economy–which had grown by a quarter during the time I’d been Leader–has been hit harder than any other in the country, creating the worst employment crisis in the town’s history and leaving a visible impact upon the town centre.
For the council, the priorities are clear. We need to focus on getting residents back into employment as fast as possible, helping to keep a roof over their heads until that can be achieved, and working to ensure businesses which are lost from the town’s key economic areas are replaced. This won’t be easy and we will need support from central government if we are going to turn things around quickly, but I am determined to ensure that Crawley’s best days remain ahead of it.
I must take this chance to pay tribute to the amazing work of council workers throughout the pandemic. Many have been working flat-out for twelve months now, often undertaking tasks which are nothing to do with their day jobs, sometimes in frontline roles, all of it to help our community through these tough times. The last year has shown just how critical public services are for our survival, they deserve better than the pay freeze announced by the Chancellor or the cuts the council is now forced to make to deal with the consequences of COVID-19 hollowing out the local authority’s finances.