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Labour will give 30 hours free childcare a week to 3,537 two to four year-olds in Crawley

The radical expansion of free childcare to all exceeds all other political party’s offers, and will save
families thousands of pounds a year. It will be accompanied by opening a Sure Start centre in every
community to unlock the potential of all our children.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has outlined Labour’s £1 billion investment to reverse the
Conservatives’ austerity cuts by opening 1,000 new Sure Start centres across England replacing the 1,000
closed since 2010.

Labour’s plans to radically expand free childcare to 30 hours a week for all 2-4 year olds, saving families
thousands of pounds a year.
Analysis by the House of Commons Library, found that Labour’s expansion of free childcare would see:
· a family with one 2 year old (currently ineligible for childcare support) save over £5,000 a year
· families with 2-4 year olds (currently only eligible for 15 hours childcare support) save over £2,500 a year.

This comes as new analysis shows childcare costs have risen twice as fast as wages under the Tories.

Peter Lamb, Crawley Council Leader and Labour’s Candidate in Crawley, said: “This policy is about the real
change that the next Labour government is going to bring to people’s lives.

“Just imagine how much easier this will make life and work for the parents of young families in Crawley.

“You can’t trust the Tories and the Lib Dems with childcare – they cut more than a thousand Sure Start
centers across the country and told us it’s impossible for the state to make people’s lives better by helping
with childcare.

“Yet I’ve met families across Crawley who struggle to afford the childcare they need to return to work. For
too many families that results in the use of foodbanks and rising numbers of children growing up in poverty
in our town, even though at least one parent is working full time.
“This is another example of Labour delivering real change that makes a difference to real people’s lives.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, John Healey visits Crawley’s Newest Council Homes

Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, John Healey visited Crawley this week and Peter Lamb, Council Leader and Labour Parliamentary Candidate was very happy to show the shadow minister around the new truly affordable housing the council has delivered for Crawley people under his leadership.

The development is part of the council’s own affordable housing scheme and is on an ex council depot in the Old Horsham Road. It comprises 22 flats in four blocks and 22 houses in five terraces.

The Council Leader and Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Peter Lamb said: “These have been extremely tough times financially for the council, facing the biggest budget cuts in living memory. But I have been determined that we deliver for local people the truly affordable housing that we so desperately need.

“So I was particularly proud to show Mr Healey what we have achieved.

“This housing is so new that, as we knocked on the doors, we found many of the residents had not yet even registered to vote. So I am keen to encourage anyone in Crawley to make sure they are registered to vote, particularly if they have recently moved. All it takes is a phone call to Electoral Services at the Town Hall on 01293 438346 or it can be done on-line at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

“Under a Labour Government councils like Crawley would be able to deliver so much more of the truly affordable housing which is so desperately needed across the country. As Council Leader I have always said that fixing the housing crisis is a priority because surely we can all agree that every resident should be able to afford a place of their own.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, John Healey said: “Today there are over a million people struck on council house waiting lists. As a country we are building 30,000 fewer social homes a year than in 2010.

“Labour Council Leaders like Peter are showing people that things do not have to be that way. Even in Opposition in Westminster, council leaders like Peter are making a real difference in housing for their constituents.  In Government, Labour will build one million new, genuinely affordable homes over 10 years.”

Emily Thornberry comes to Crawley to campaign with Labour Candidate and Council Leader Peter Lamb

Shadow Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Emily Thornberry MP visited Crawley on Friday to support Peter Lamb, Crawley Labour’s candidate for Parliament.

The visit began with a trip to Tilgate Park and its Nature Centre, where Council Leader Lamb showed her investments Crawley Borough Council had made in its facilities under his leadership, in the process raising money to pay for local services and offset cuts to the council’s budget made by the Conservative Government.

In the afternoon, Emily and Peter were then joined by other Crawley Labour members to talk with residents at Gossops Green Primary and on the doorstep about what is at stake at this election and Labour’s positive programme for Crawley and the country.

Speaking after the visit, Cllr Lamb said: “I’d like to thank Emily Thornberry for taking the time to come campaign for me.”

“During the last nine years of Conservative Government, Crawley has seen its NHS go into financial special measures, local headteachers have been forced to march on Downing Street to demand the funding our schools need, and police cuts have resulted in a wave of drugs and violence spreading into our neighbourhoods and town centre.

“There is no evidence another five will make anything better. In 2017, Labour came within 2,500 votes of beating the Conservatives in Crawley, with no other party retaining their deposit. On 12 th December it will really be a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives, for change or more of the same.”

Crawley Live Column, Winter 2019

Thanks to the time involved in printing and distributing ‘Crawley Live’, all the content has to be written some time before each edition is released. So, writing now I have no idea what, if anything, has been agreed with regard to the two issues which will have the biggest impact on our town for at least the next few years: Brexit and a possible General Election.

Until then my focus is, as it has been since I became Council Leader, finding a way to keep local services running despite a decade of money being taken from Crawley by central government, and with millions more set to go in the near future. We’ve managed it so far by ensuring we raise the most out of the town’s assets, but with each passing year the options are fewer and if money keeps being taken sooner or later we’ll lose our services too.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 6th November 2019

Remembrance Sunday takes place this weekend, the one day a year when we are all expected to spend a little time remembering conflict and the consequences it has for the lives of all those who come into contact with it, whether they’re military or civilians, those on the front-line or those who care for them back home.

For many, Remembrance Sunday conjures images of poppies, soldiers standing to attention and the Cenotaph, and it certainly involves all those things. Yet, I worry all-too-often we acknowledge the formal process of ‘Remembrance’, buying a poppy and standing quietly for two minutes, and learn nothing from it.

Yes, we should remember the dead and the high price wars forced them to pay, but we should remember the living also. Those families for whom the loss of a loved one is not only a source of ongoing pain, but will drive them into financial deprivation. Those physically injured through conflicts, whose bodies will forever carry the wounds and their limitations. Those whose wounds aren’t physical, yet no less painful or debilitating.

Do we remember them too? Do we remember them when the silence is over, when the poppies come off and the day is done? Perhaps some do, I suspect most do not; we certainly don’t like to think about how our country is failing them.

13,000 veterans care currently homeless according to the estimate of one leading military charity, that’s despite councils like Crawley giving housing applications from veterans added weight. Mental health support too is severely lacking, with 6% of current and former servicemen and women believed to be suffering from PTSD alone. While, cuts in incapacity benefits and support for the last decade have hit veterans and civilians with disabilities alike.

For those who have been put in harms way on our behalf we owe a greater debt than two minutes silence once a year. We owe it to them to look at the impact of what service did to them and to put it right, starting with reversing the damage cuts have made to our public services and welfare in recent years

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 30th October 2019

For the last decade, your local councils, schools, NHS, police and public services of all types have been subject to harsh and continuing austerity. The result in Crawley has been headteachers forced to march on Downing Street to demand the funding they require to provide the basics children need to learn, Crawley’s NHS has been officially designated as being in financial Special Measures for years due to insufficient money to cover the cost of residents’s healthcare, and police cuts have seen drugs and knife crime spill out into our local neighbourhoods.

The fact we have been forced to suffer is the result of an ongoing political choice by the Conservatives to prioritise tax cuts for the wealthy over funding our local services, an action taken first in coalition with the Liberal Democrats and more recently on their own. At the same time, to keep themselves in power increasing amounts of money have been sent to Northern Ireland to secure the support of the DUP. I don’t deny that the Northern Irish need investment in their services, but so does England and it’s time we had a Government which recognised that fact.

In coming weeks parties will be promising all manner of things, both policies they believe are inherently right and those they feel are necessary to win the support of the country. The question when it comes to each party is: are they promising enough to ensure we regain the quality of services Crawley deserves, are they in a position where with your support they could get into office and actually deliver it, and does the track-record of that party suggest that when they say they care about our public services we can actually believe them.

Clearly, I have strong views about which party comes out best on those three aspects, but ultimately if we want the services we deserve it’s not enough to go with big promises and bombastic pronouncements, we need to be willing to ask ourselves the hard questions about what we are actually being promised and whether that’s enough to meet the needs of our community.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 23rd October 2019

For all the endless talk about Brexit–which will stretch into decades’ worth of negotiations if this deal does go through–you could be forgiven for thinking nothing else was going on in the UK right now, certainly not in the public sector. This is, of course, untrue. Until recent months, most of the public sector had not been engaged in preparing for Brexit in any meaningful way and even now we’ve been given little information on what needs to be done before the deadline just over a week from now.

Despite the dramatic cuts to public spending over the last decade, a fifth of all employment remains in the public sector, so at least some of these people would have to be involved in something other than Brexit. They certainly have been, they’ve been putting out fires, providing loved ones with medical care, teaching our children, catching criminals and defending the borders of our country, and they’ve been doing it with less money and manpower than at any time since the Second World War. No wonder most services are now at the breaking point, where they struggle to meet even the most basic expectations of residents.

This isn’t something which was done to us, this is the direct result of decisions taken by Governments the public elected and as each of Mr Johnson’s spending commitments unravel it’s becoming increasingly clear if the current course is maintained, citizens will no longer be able to expect the types of public services our parents and grandparents benefitted from.

For the last five years, I’ve fought to find alternatives to cuts, but with the Treasury planning to give even more of Crawley’s income to the county council over the coming years, we’re running out of options. From ending weekly bin collections and leaving some grass verges permanently uncut, to closing local play areas and shutting community centres, if the UK maintains this course those will be the easy cuts, after which the tough choices start. This isn’t the future I want for our town, but ultimately the choice is up to the voters.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 16th October 2019

Just imagine it. For years issues with the country has been worrying you. You’ve taken the time to weigh up which option is best for your family. You’ve walked down to your local school or community centre with your polling card and when you’ve got there you’re told you won’t be allowed to use the right to vote that generations of your ancestors fought and died for. Why? Because you don’t have ID.

In the UK, we’ve never been required to have identity cards, in fact when ID cards were suggested it faced a wave of ‘principled’ opposition from the Conservatives, including from our current MP, before he was elected to Parliament. All that is about to change, for the first time every citizen will be required to have an ID, or you’ll lose your right to vote.

Fraud at UK elections is incredibly rare, at the last election there was only one individual convicted for impersonating another voter, the existing systems already mean it would be almost impossible to undertake fraud at a level which would affect the outcome of a single seat.

Meanwhile, in the eight council areas the Government has already trialled the new system, 819 voters have been turned away due to not having an ID. Those sorts of numbers would change election results, which is probably why they are doing it.

There are 11m people in the UK without a Passport or Driver’s License, most of them on lower incomes and the majority are not Conservative voters. Without the roll out of voter ID by Republicans in the USA, Trump wouldn’t have been elected. Don’t doubt how effective this will be at rigging our democracy.

The UK already has one of the lowest turnouts in the West, these proposals will only make that worse. Let’s be clear, they’re taking away your liberty by making you have an ID card, taking away your vote if you don’t go along with it, and they will happily mutilate our democracy so long as it keeps them in power. That’s what your Conservative Government is doing in your name.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 9th October 2019

Two years ago I stood down as a West Sussex County Councillor. I did so for several reasons, but one of the biggest being that I had become convinced that the way the council was run made it impossible for councillors to deliver for residents and that common sense counted for little with the leadership.

Last week, Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, resigned after a decade in the role. It would be mean-spirited not to acknowledge that I believe she felt what she was doing as leader was in the best interests of the area, that there were times she did help us to genuinely improve things in Crawley–particularly around economic development, and that the problems which led to her downfall began before she took on the role.

Nonetheless, her approach to leadership made a bad situation much worse, to the extent that central government is about to take one of the council’s major services away due to its appalling condition. The question now is what, if anything, the new leader will do to get things back on track?

I won’t repeat the stream-of-consciousness blog I posted on my website following news of her resignation, but I do believe most of the council’s problems can be summed up in one sentence and resolved with fairly minor changes, the sentence being: the county council is too big and runs too many services for one person to control everything. Certainly, that’s now how I run Crawley, and our geographical footprint is much smaller.

What does this mean in practice? Appointing competent officers, not just people who agree with the leader, and trusting them to do their jobs. Delegating decisions to cabinet members and working to support them, rather than the other way around. Reversing the centralisation of decision-making at the council so that all councillors can at least vote on big changes, rather than Cabinet resolving them by email. Lastly, restoring relationships with other councils and organisations which almost ended last year, if West Sussex are ready to behave as a partner again my door is certainly open.

Five steps to get West Sussex County Council functioning again

So, Louise Goldsmith has resigned as Leader of West Sussex County Council following a run of appalling independent reviews of performance at the authority and a little over a year after I called for her to go.

While we have not yet seen the latest report which finished her off, the summary presented in the Local Government Chronical certainly reflects my experience of four years as a councillor at the council, as I know it does for many who have worked with West Sussex over recent years (although, to be fair the problems at the authority go way back before Louise became leader).

Despite one local chief executive suggesting to me a few years back that the only way to fix West Sussex was to shut it down and start again, we are where we are and the departures of Louise and Nathan does give the council the chance to at least start giving West Sussex the chance to stop being a massively underperforming authority. Here are five possible steps for doing that:

1) Appoint a competent chief exec

For the last decade it has been Louise’s way or the highway, that’s how she has managed to get through more chief executives than anyone has ever managed in that timeframe before. This included a period in which the entire role was deleted and Louise stood completely unchallenged. As a leader I know my role is policy and the chief exec is there to run operations. It works this way because my mandate comes on the back of securing public support for political positions and the chief exec is a career civil servant with the expertise to turn that into reality. Councils go wrong when people forget their role or where chief execs go along with things they know to be wrong because their leader is unwilling to listen. Leaders need to appoint capable people and trust their judgement.

2) Delegate to Cabinet Members

Much the same as point 1, you have a Cabinet and you need to trust them to do their job. You simply cannot keep on top of the whole work of a council by yourself and it is not your job to. Your role is to set a direction for the council as a whole, to be its face looking outwards, to resolve differences between cabinet members and crises as they emerge, and to help deliver the resources cabinet members and senior officers need to do their role. If you cannot trust your cabinet then you need to appoint a new one.

3) Open the decision making up

During my time as a county councillor, I was lied to by various officers, I repeatedly had reasonable requests for information rejected and key decisions were taken behind closed doors. To say there is a culture of secrecy at the council is an understatement and the complete rejection of effective scrutiny is a large part of how things got so bad. Under the Cabinet Model, you can have greater and lesser levels of delegation to cabinet members and senior officers. At West Sussex this delegation (or rather centralisation) has been taken so far that almost all major decisions never go before the Full Council. Those of us who have served on other councils know this level of centralisation is utterly absurd and it needs to go. Cabinet should start meeting regularly in person, key decisions should be voted on by councillors representing the whole of the electorate, and officers should never again fear the consequences of being honest with elected members.

4) Reset the relationship with partners

No one enjoys working with West Sussex right now. I work happily with many other councils of different political colours, but the dishonesty and arrogance of West Sussex reps has alienated the very same partners the council will depend upon if they want to get back on their feet. A new leader and chief exec will give the council a chance to reset this relationship, and let me be the first to extend my hand to whomever gets the roles. Things can’t go on like this, we need to work as equals to get things moving again.

5) West Sussex needs a new Monitoring Officer

Every council has a ‘Monitoring Officer’, typically the head of Legal Services and their role is to ensure that the council operates legally. The latest report shows that the council has not been acting legally in how its Children’s Services department has been running, that the law was not followed in dealing with the scandal around the Nathan Elvery’s relocation bonus, and that the Monitoring Officer appears to have tried to cover this up. How can anyone have any confidence in them continuing to carry out a role when they have failed so badly in the past? My own experience dealing with them leaves me with no confidence, having seen them essentially do whatever they were told by the administration regardless of whether it was right and the regular failure to respond adequately to FOI requests. Much as it pains me to say that anyone should ever lose their job, this step is fundamenal for anyone who wishes to restore confidence in the authority.