Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 24th March 2021

Yesterday was the first ‘National Day of Reflection’. A chance, a year on from the first lockdown, to reflect upon what has happened and those we have lost. In the last twelve months, COVID-19 has killed roughly three times more people in the UK than those who died during the Blitz. While some never miss an opportunity to say that most of those who died either old or had pre-existing conditions, as if that makes those people expendable, what is often ignored is that pre-existing conditions includes things with which people would have still expected a full measure of life and that the ‘elderly’ would have often been expected to have lived several decades more.

It will take time to come to terms with the death toll of this pandemic and the world it now leaves us. After a year in which we have all been able to do very little, it’s easy to think nothing has changed. Certainly at the council, much of what we’d planned to deliver last year was put on hold while we tackled the pandemic. Yet, the truth is that for Crawley, everything has changed.

Before last March, Crawley’s economy had grown a quarter in just the time I’d been Leader, becoming the densest centre for employment in the country outside of London. Today, we are faced with an unemployment crisis and the prospect that when furlough eventually has to end the problem will become much much worse. Where unemployment goes, homelessness soon follows and we are already facing a tidal wave of evictions when the ban ceases.

These aren’t problems which will fix themselves the moment COVID goes. It will take time and enormous efforts to rebuilt what was lost, a task which would have been eased considerably if Government had done anything in the Budget to recognise the challenges Crawley faces. The council has been developing a recovery strategy since last April. Out of the loss of this last year there can be new growth, but it’s down to us as a community to come together to get Crawley back on its feet.

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