The future of local government in Crawley, Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 18th May 2022

It’s almost a year since I announced Crawley’s bid for city status, recognising the scale of the town’s growth in the year of both the Queen’s Platinum Anniversary and New Town’s 75th Anniversary. While the result hasn’t yet been announced, even being in the position to mount a credible bid is a testament to how far Crawley has changed since those early days.

One question which has been continuously raised with me throughout the bid is whether city status would mean Crawley Borough Council receiving more powers. While the answer is ‘no’, the question touches at the general belief of residents that unitary status would be good for Crawley.

While most people do understand the difference between West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council, the division still causes confusion at times. Worse is the general sense decisions taken in Chichester often don’t reflect those which would have been taken closer to home. This isn’t a partisan point, I have yet to find a Conservative supporter on the doorstep who would disagree with the claim that West Sussex are short-changing Crawley.

I, too, would like to see Crawley voters have total control over their own public services, but the Conservative Government has made it clear that they will only consider new unitaries with a population size of at least 300,000, way in excess of what the town is likely ever likely to reach.

Despite their caginess, it’s well known the leadership at West Sussex County Council would like to see the county become a unitary authority, ending any decision making at the local level. However, this seems unlikely to happen, not least because the only people in the whole county who seem to it’s a good idea are those currently running West Sussex.

If the current government does decide to restructure local government, the most likely outcome is the county being split into two, a northern and a southern council. Were such proposed, the question is whether Crawley’s Conservatives would fight to retain the right of Crawley residents to control their own services or if their loyalties truly rest elsewhere.

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