For the last eleven years, I’m proud to have represented a party which has seeks election to safeguard Crawley’s public services, not to cut them. Despite endless reductions in funding from Conservative Government, for the first six years after Labour regained control of the council, we managed to protect frontline services from any cuts by finding new sources of income to cover what was lost. The only council in the country to manage that feat.
Last year’s Budget was by far the hardest of my time as Leader, with the pandemic not only incurring high costs, but far more significantly cutting off all the council’s potential sources of income, leaving us with no alternative but to make cuts. At the same time, as a hung council we had to work hard to reach consensus across the parties about to how to address this challenge. Nonetheless, consensus was found and we collectively took the tough decisions necessary to stabilise the council’s finances.
So, a year on, I’m pleased to be able to report that the Budget Strategy going to Full Council should again deliver a balanced budget without needing any frontline cuts, alongside providing substantial resources for new council homes, investment in Crawley’s infrastructure, and funding for the major changes required by the first year of our new carbon reduction plan. There will even be a real-terms cut in Crawley Borough Council’s share of your council tax, although as Crawley only keeps 11% of your council tax and both West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police are likely to increase their rates substantially, this isn’t something you’re likely to notice in your final bill.
That isn’t to say that we’re out of the woods yet. COVID-19 remains a considerable cost to the council and it’s likely we will end this year in deficit. Yet, as we rebuild our local economy, create better job opportunities for residents and see the new Town Hall generate new rental income, even as the Conservatives cut our income, Crawley Labour can continue to work to protect local services and deliver a better future for our town.