Like many people, I have a quiet moan to myself when I notice the first Christmas decorations going up well before December. It’s not that I dislike Christmas, far from it, but it does feel as though the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ loses something when it occupies an increasingly large part of the year.
So, I had some sympathy for those commenting on Facebook about the Town Centre decorations going up. Yet, it’s not hard to understand why. Retail has been struggling for many years, made far worse by the pandemic, as people increasingly buy things online. If the local businesses who pay for the Crawley Town Centre BID believe buying new decorations and getting them up in mid-October will help them to survive then that is clearly in the best interests of the town as a whole.
What is not in the best interests of our town is the Government’s decision to take £20 per week away from Crawley poorest residents. Our latest figures are from before the Government’s decision to end the furlough scheme, even for sectors like aviation which continue to struggle under the burden Government restrictions, and consequently for Crawley we still won’t know just how bad this is likely to be for the town as a whole.
However, using the existing figures what we do know is at least 4,270 of our poorest residents will be £220 poorer by Christmas and for all his talk, the Chancellor’s alleged package of support is just a fraction of what he’s cutting from Universal Credit. What a lovely present from the Government to families already struggling to keep their heads above water due to the economic impact of the Government’s restrictions and who, much like everyone else, are now dealing with the rising costs of basic essentials, shortages in the shops, and a National Insurance hike which will again target low earners.
For Crawley as a whole this amounts to an extra £4.4m being taken out of our economy, another hit for struggling local businesses, but for those families it’s a body blow at Christmas time.