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Press Release: Crawley resident faces punishment for fly-tipping

A man who was filmed fly-tipping near where he lived has been successfully prosecuted by Crawley Borough Council.

Peter Harpham, of Waterside Close, Bewbush pleaded guilty to an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (11 July).

In April 2017, the council received an anonymous tip-off that a man was fly-tipping in a residential car park in Gasson Wood Road, Bewbush. Community Wardens attended the scene and were provided with video footage by a witness, which showed a large amount of rubbish being dumped from the back of a tipper van.

An investigation led by the council’s Fraud Team gathered evidence which identified Mr Harpham as the culprit and the van he used in the fly-tipping was uninsured, untaxed and without an MOT.

Mr Harpham was sentenced by the court to a 12 month Community Order and ordered to pay £171 in compensation, which was the cost of clearing up the rubbish. In addition, he also received a 12 month driving disqualification and a three month curfew.

The council hopes the prosecution will serve as a reminder that incidents of fly-tipping are taken extremely seriously and that it will take the firmest of action where it has the evidence to do so. All residents have a duty of care to ensure their waste is disposed of properly and legally.

Leader of Crawley Borough Council, Councillor Peter Lamb, said: “The council will always work to use its powers and resources as effectively as possible to maintain the attractive appearance of our town. This is a great result for the many council officers who have worked to put a stop to this sort of unacceptable behaviour.”

The Community Wardens will investigate all reports of fly-tipping and can be contacted on 07884 492324.

Crawley News 24 Column, Wednesday 11th July 2018

Last weekend, I was out with other Labour councillors and activists in Queens Square and at Broadfield Barton celebrating our NHS’s 70th Birthday. As part of our celebration we were handing out birthday cake and asking members of the public to sign giant birthday cards for past and present NHS workers, letting them know despite the pressures they’re facing Crawley residents are behind them.

Our NHS is part of what makes this country great, the principle your right to life shouldn’t be based on what you earn or who your parents were. Residents were extremely keen to sign the cards and leave their personal messages of support, sadly many also wanted to tell us how concerned they were for the services’ future. It’s a concern I share.

Crawley’s NHS provision has never faced as great a threat as it does today. Our town’s Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for financing all our local health needs, has been in Special Measures for the last year as they can’t afford to pay for all the healthcare we need with the budget the Government has allocated, raising concerns over the future rationing of care. Meanwhile, GP provision in the town is now at the point of breaking.

Our MP promised us £350m a week in new NHS funding when he campaigned heavily for Brexit, money which has now been proven to have never existed. Even the latest announcement on NHS funding falls far short on what healthcare experts say is needed. It’s not over-the-top to say that NHS funding is a matter of life and death and the Government have proven themselves either unwilling or unable to deliver. All the figures now show, without a major change at the top we won’t be celebrating the NHS’s 80th Birthday a decade from now.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 11th July 2018

After the ups and downs of recent years, you get the feeling that England needed this World Cup run. Whether we go on to win or not, against the uncertainties of Brexit and the general chaos on the national level, we’ve had the chance to pull together and remember that against all odds and expectations amazing things can happen.

To get to our first semi-final in 28 years and, if today goes well, our first final since our World Cup win 52 years ago is fantastic in itself, but of course for Crawley we have particular cause to feel proud, as it’s one of our own who has led the way.

Over recent days, I have been contacted by many residents asking for some sort of memorial to recognise, former Hazelwick schoolboy turned England Manager, Gareth Southgate’s achievements in steering England this far and there’s a growing petition online calling for a statue for him somewhere in Crawley. Before the World Cup kicked-off councillors had already been discussing what we should do to celebrate a strong performance by England in Russia and I want to reassure residents we are very keen to do something which acknowledges the scale of what has been accomplished this year.

Crawley has a proud sporting legacy as a town, our home has been the birthplace and the training ground for many successful sportspeople, including a number of successful Olympians, and Crawley Town has consistently punched above its weight. That’s something from which we should all take inspiration, from schoolkids taking their first tentative steps to becoming Crawley’s next sporting hero to adults of all ages using sport as a means of keeping active and building community ties. We know that if the NHS is going to cope with an ageing population, that population is going to need to get fitter and as a council we work hard to improve and maintain some of the best sporting facilities in the South East for residents. So, if England’s run has inspired you, why not take this chance to live up to the legacy and take up a local sport.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 4th July 2018

One of the most depressing parts of the four years I spent on West Sussex County Council was knowing how little we could do to stop the year-on-year cuts to social care for elderly residents. Ensuring that senior citizens who are no longer able to take care of themselves aren’t left to rot seems to me to be one of the most basic duties of civilised society, yet while lifespans keep getting longer the UK is failing to meet the needs of our elder people.

Considerable work over recent years has gone into building community structures, such as the internationally-recognised Dementia-Friendly Crawley, to enable people to maintain their independence for longer. Unfortunately, even the most effective community provision cannot make up for cuts to Adult Social Care. The North of the county is already under-resourced in terms of full-time care places, now Crawley’s day care places are about to take a hit.

West Sussex County Council have announced plans to close the day centre currently operating at Maidenbower Community Centre, a referral-only service, potentially leaving dozens of our elderly residents and carers without the support they need to avoid being forced into a care home. Any re-provision of that service elsewhere raises questions over access and future capacity growth, questions which have not yet been answered.

Worse. Various services currently operate alongside the day centre at Maidenbower, helping to assessing and support the needs of users and carers. The closure of the centre potentially disperses these teams, at minimum reducing access to the high-needs groups they currently serve.

It’s hard to see how county even stand to make a saving from the changes being proposed. Maidenbower Community Centre is owned by Crawley Borough Council with West Sussex County Council holding a 60 year lease for the majority of the centre. That lease won’t expire until 2056 and in the meantime they’re required to pay for all running and maintenance costs on that part of the building. Given that they’re already paying for the facility, surely they might as well use it to ensure the needs of our senior citizens don’t go unmet.

Happy Birthday NHS

The media today has been filled with stories celebrating the 70th Anniversary of our National Health Service. I too would like to pay tribute to the fantastic work of all those who have or are working and volunteering to build and maintain the UK’s greatest national institution.

The principle that people should be able to access healthcare, free at the point of use, seems to me one of the basic tenets of a civilised society and we often find ourselves looking with puzzlement at the US and their private healthcare system. Yet, aside from a few small-scale versions run by Labour councils, at the time the NHS was created the notion was revolutionary, and vigorously opposed by the Conservatives.

Today all the main parties publicly claim to support the NHS, but nice words cannot hide the fact that the service is currently in a critical condition.  Crawley’s Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for paying for all our treatment locally, has been in financial ‘special measures’ for the last year, unable to afford the cost of meeting residents’ medical needs on the budget the government has allocated us. Meanwhile, local GP surgeries are oversubscribed to the point of breaking. If things go on like this the NHS will not last another decade. So, if politicians really want to praise the work of our NHS, then wouldn’t the highest praise really be safeguarding the service for the next generation.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 27th June 2018

On Monday, Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, told the BBC that he doesn’t run the railways. You could be forgiven for thinking that given the word ‘Transport’ is in his title, that fact the railway companies answer to him and that under the GTR franchise agreement the Department for Transport are Southern’s only paying customer, he might at least take an active interest in how they are run. Apparently that thought is lost on him.

At the same Chris Grayling was busily rewriting his job description, I was at Three Bridges with Kate Osamor MP, Shadow Secretary of State, talking to Crawley commuters about Labour’s plan for fixing the railways. Increasing numbers of Crawley residents commute to London daily for work, at various points in my career I’ve been one of them, yet commuting conditions keep getting worse.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Under the current franchise agreement, money from tickets goes straight to Government, with the company paid a fixed amount. The end result: encouraging greater rail use through service improvements wouldn’t benefit Southern at all, cutbacks on the other hand, that’s where they make their profit.

Yet, this isn’t about just one type of franchise, the system is broken. Franchising discourages necessary long-term investment, while encouraging unreasonably low bids to secure deals. As ever, passengers are left living with the consequences.

Re-nationalisation won’t solve everything overnight, capacity improvements require greater investment and that will rely upon Labour’s national infrastructure plans, but it’s an important first step and, far more importantly, it will end the lack of accountability. Someone, somewhere needs to be in charge of running the railways and they need to be publicly accountable, never again can we have the Secretary of State for Transport claiming railways are nothing to do with them. This doesn’t even have to cost taxpayers a penny, all we need to do is wait for the current franchises to lapse and then bring them back into public ownership.

Enough is enough, it’s time to end the mayhem on the railways and Labour is ready to get on with the job.

Crawley News 24 Column, Tuesday 26th June 2018

This Sunday, Crawley Museum will be officially opening at its new location in the High Street. The project is the culmination of eight years’ effort, several million in investment—most of which from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and countless hours of work by volunteers, the museum’s staff members and council officers. It will be exciting to see the final result.

The project itself was kicked off under the Conservatives and at the time many of us were concerned about the council taking on expensive new commitments while our grant was being cut year-on-year. Yet, with the funds committed, under Labour the council has continued to dedicate itself to ensuring the new museum will be a success.

I believe that learning about our local history is an important part of understanding the community we live in, where it has come from and where it is going. This was something we were lucky to get a taste of at Holy Trinity, where Roger Bastable, Crawley’s preeminent historian and himself an important figure in the development of Crawley Museum Society, was one of our teachers.

In the years since, I have continued to enjoy reading and listening to the memories of early New Towners and hearing about the villages which once existed where the town now stands. In many ways, Crawley’s story is the story of Twentieth Century Britain and beyond.

Today, we are a prosperous, diverse town and we are continuing to grow as we seek to meet the housing needs of local people and the economic potential of our area. Crawley’s story is certainly not over, but as we celebrate the opening of our new and much improved town museum we have the opportunity to take stock, to feel proud of our past and look with growing confidence to our future.

Campaigning to fix the railways at Three Bridges with Kate Osamor MP

Crawley Labour activists campaigning at Three Bridges Station with Kate Osamor MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

This morning, Crawley Labour activists were speaking with commuters at Three Bridges Station about the Tory rail mayhem, supported by Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Kate Osamor MP.

An increasing number of Crawley residents depend upon the railways to get to work, yet at the same time the quality of the service has never been worse. This shouldn’t be a surprise, the design of the current franchise means that the railway companies can only make money by cutting costs (savings which aren’t passed-on to passengers), not by improving the quality of services.

Re-nationalising the railways isn’t a magic bullet, but the current rail monopoly gives power to companies who have no incentive to making things better. By taking railways back into public ownership we make them accountable to the public again and stop the buck passing which has allowed the current chaos to develop. If we just wait for the current franchise agreements to lapse, it doesn’t even have to cost taxpayers a penny.

Railway mayhem isn’t inevitable, it’s the result of bad planning, bad business practice and bad political decisions, all of which can be changed. If the Tories won’t listen to reason, then it’s time for Labour to get on with the job.

Press Release: Council supports National Democracy Week

Crawley Borough Council is supporting the inaugural National Democracy Week, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act which gave women the same voting rights as men.

The week will kick off on Monday 2 July and is being led by the National Democracy Week Council, which includes more than 40 organisations across the UK who are passionate about democratic engagement.

The aim of the week is to increase the number of people who are more likely to participate in democratic decision making; increase voter registration; improve understanding of the barriers to democratic engagement; and show that in working together, we are greater than the sum of our parts.

With a range of activities taking place nationally, participants will learn about the importance of democracy, how you can get involved in local and national politics and much more!

Leader of Crawley Borough Council, Councillor Peter Lamb, said: “Democracy is a fundamental part of our way of life, it’s how people’s voices are heard and how we make decisions to improve society and make it a better, fairer place. I would encourage everyone to get involved in National Democracy Week, whether you attend an event or research about democratic processes.”

For more information about democracy in Crawley, visit  http://democracy.crawley.gov.uk/

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 20th June 2018

We all know what the cause of litter is: people choosing to throw rubbish where they shouldn’t. I’ve seen people walk past bins only to discard their refuse on the floor. It’s only a small number of people who choose to engage in this anti-social, and in some cases criminal, behaviour but that’s all it takes to leave our streets looking untidy.

Thanks to the council’s hard-working street cleansing teams, pavements aren’t left permanently strewn with litter. As I have often remarked to people, if politicians were to disappear it would take a couple of months for anyone to notice, but if our frontline workforce went missing leaving litter left unpicked, grass left uncut or bins uncollected you can bet we would be getting calls the very same day.

Of course, rather than having to spend time cleaning up after people it would be much easier if they simply didn’t litter in the first place. Partly that’s a question of where we place bins, and monitoring litter levels over time does help us to improve their location, but more significantly it is about changing behaviour and that’s where the community wardens come in.

Community wardens have the power to issue fixed penalty notices and this is something they will do if a litterer refuses to pick up after themselves when confronted. Why not just fine them anyway? That approach has been tried in the past, but let’s remember that the goal here isn’t to see how many fixed penalty notices we can issue, but to reduce littering.

I like basing policy on evidence and data, so I find it worrying when our Conservative MP claims that the council is failing on littering because we haven’t issued a fixed penalty notice over the last two years, when over that same period littering has been cut by almost a fifth and flytipping by over a quarter. Compared to the issues he is voting on in Parliament on our behalf litter is a minor concern, if he’s unwilling to consider the evidence on such a basic issue, what else is he skipping over?