New Year Column, Crawley Observer

2021, much like 2020, might well have felt like a year in which nothing happened. Certainly, the pandemic postponed much of what we might like to have done personally and professionally, and it’s much the same in terms of the public sector. Yet, looking back through the record of council meetings over the last twelve months, the reality is an awful lot of has been achieved.

In the year of COP26, the council has taken some major steps forward in our work towards sustainability, an area which I am pleased to say has substantial cross-party support. In just this month we have agreed stricter targets for reducing carbon, having already produced a comprehensive Climate Emergency Action Plan earlier in the year and we’ve started working on extending the District Heat Network across the Town Centre

We’ve finished several hundred new affordable homes, bought new temporary housing so people can remain closer to home, and taken decisions which will result in hundreds more new council homes being built.

It certainly wasn’t all upside, COVID has come at a heavy cost. We lost good friends to the virus, not least amongst them former mayor Cllr Raj Sharma. The impact of the pandemic on the council’s income also forced us to take tough decisions around services. In addition, the economic consequences of COVID continues to cause pain for many local businesses and households.

Yet, the council is working hard to rebuild what has been lost. We’ve brought forward investment which will deliver new centres of technological innovation on Manor Royal, delivered improvements to local training and jobs support, and worked to upgrade the town’s physical and digital infrastructure, ensuring Crawley’s will remain one of the most attractive places for employers to base themselves.

As we head into 2022, with Crawley’s 75th Anniversary now just days away, we can take comfort in knowing that while a great amount still needs to be done to deliver the town residents deserve, we have faced many obstacles on the path to where we are today, and as a community we have always managed to rise above them.

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