Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 12th May 2021

A heartfelt thank you to all those who voted last Thursday. While the results weren’t what I was hoping for, Labour in Crawley suffered the net loss of just a single seat to Conservatives compared to the scores lost in other town of our type. However, that loss puts the town in a difficult position.

Two years ago, the Local Government Boundary Commission revised the Crawley Borough Council ward boundaries, reducing the number of seats from 37 to 36. A number of us warned the commission at the time that having an even number of seats was a recipe for trouble, given Crawley’s history of close results and tendency to only elect two parties, and that it was just a matter of time until we ended up with a divided council.

After Thursday, the council has 18 Conservative, 17 Labour and one Independent former Labour councillor, meaning we are effectively in deadlock for the next year. Crawley’s economy has been hit harder by COVID restrictions than any other, we have a Government agency seeking to build 10,000 houses on our Western boarder, and the pandemic continues to cause major financial problems for the council. The risk now is that rather than addressing these issues, the council spends 12 months unable to take any major decisions.

I don’t believe that anyone wants that for Crawley, I certainly don’t, which is why it’s important some deal is reached between the groups on the council. For the last year Labour and the Conservatives have had a deal, but as Labour hold the casting vote on who the next Mayor will be and consequently who will wield the casting vote for the next year, a Labour-Independent deal would work, as I’m sure a Conservative-Independent deal would also.

Conversations have been taking place around what such deals might look like for the last week and are likely to continue for the next week, with an ultimate cut-off being the deadline for publishing the Annual Council papers on 20th May. Whatever the outcome, Labour councillors will work to deliver the commitments upon which we were elected.

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