No, the council isn’t closing Springboard in Crawley

I’m aware that a number of mistruths are being circulated around about this, so in the interests of fairness I thought you might like a true account of events.

When Springboard opened they decided to take on a commercial property at a commercial rent. At this time all the risks were highlighted to them, but they decided to take on the property nonetheless and various public sector organisations provided grant funding to help set the property up and pay for some of the running costs.

Last year I met with the new chief executive of the charity who flagged up that they were in financial difficulties, that he understood the circumstances under which the charity had taken on the property but that they were struggling. At the time I agreed to look at freezing the rent and guaranteeing the council’s grant funding for a number of years and I was given to understand that that might be enough to ensure the charity’s presence in the town. I looked into it and reported back that we could commit to such an arrangement.

When I met with the chief executive again in February I was informed that the charity’s financial position had worsened and that freezing the rent and guaranteeing the grant would not be enough for the charity to be able to maintain its presence in Crawley. I said that we weren’t in a position to commit to the tens of thousands of pounds in additional funding which were requested, but that we’d be willing to form part of a solution alongside WSCC and the CCG who have legal responsibility for the groups Springboard works with.

For some reason this was not seen to be seen as an acceptable solution and I did not hear anything further until I was informed Springboard were closing.

Springboard are not closing because we were increasing the rent (despite their signing up to that contract), nor because of any cuts to their grant funding by CBC but because their financial position worsened due to the loss of a major donor and Crawley Borough Council were not in a place to make up the gap without the support of the two organisations legally responsible for Springboard’s client group.

It is very sad that the charity is closing but it is not though any unreasonable behaviour on the council’s part, particularly when you consider we were the only organisation which expressed a willingness to help despite having no formal remit to do with Springboard’s work.

Kind regards,


Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 7th November 2018

A Post Office is a service every community needs, yet there are changes afoot which put at risk the future of this service in Crawley. Post Office Limited are consulting on changes which would see the current Crawley Post Office closed, with services moving into WH Smith. Unlike Royal Mail, the Post Office remains wholly owned by the Government and they argue this will safeguard local provision, but in practice it’s simply another cost-cutting measure by a publicly-owned organisation in a time of austerity. I’ve nothing against efficiency, but genuine efficiency means getting more out of less, getting less for less is simply a cut.

There are major problems with the proposal. Go into the Post Office at any time and despite the large number of counters you will see people queuing, it’s hard to imagine that number of counters going into the much more lightly staffed WH Smiths. The range of services Post Offices provide also go way beyond selling people stamps, they provide various Government services, such as renewing of driving licenses, with all the associated biometric equipment required. Will all these services still be available in a stationers?

Perhaps the worst impact to my mind is that on those with mobility issues, who will go from being able to park in free bays immediately outside the Post Office, to paying to park in the County Mall multi-storey and then having to make their way across the entire mall to access the service. Accessibility alone should make the proposal unacceptable, particularly given that many of those with such issues are of an age where they are more likely to need to access services physically at a Post Office.

Lastly, what are the guarantees that the Post Office remains if the store goes under, as has happened to so many major chains in recent years. That’s before we consider redundancies and the impact of the vacant building on the Town Centre.

This proposal is bad for residents, bad for workers, simply bad for Crawley and I would encourage every resident to let the Post Office know by emailing

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 31st October 2018

The Budget is in and everyone is pawing over the detail to see how they come out of it, something which for local authorities won’t become clear until a further announcement later in the year.

As a council leader you might expect my main concern would be what Crawley Borough Council gets out of the Budget, but that’s not the case. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot we could do for Crawley with more money, but since taking control of the council Labour has worked hard to find money to replace anything we’ve lost from central government, meaning we’re still spending the same on services today as we were when I became Leader.

No, what bothers me is other public services, those which didn’t take Crawley Labour’s approach, leading to services suffering cuts year-on-year. These are services residents depend upon, they’re the services I now receive the most complaints about and yet they’re services over which Crawley Borough Council has no control.

One bit of good news is that West Sussex County Council is set to receive new funding for several areas they’re facing cost pressures, further undermining the argument that closing homeless hostels is necessary to balance their budget.

But, locally that’s where the good news ends. While there was money in the Budget for the NHS, the General Practitioners Committee has raised concerns that none of it is committed for GP provision. In Crawley, our GP provision is in desperate need for financial support, with people struggling to access care and the body responsible for funding healthcare in Crawley has been in Special Measures due to a lack of money since Summer last year.

The Police too are in desperate need of investment to replace the 700 officers lost in our area under the Conservatives, with hundreds more at risk due to proposed pension changes. Yet there was no money in the Budget to help the Police tackle the increase of drugs and violence in Crawley.

Decent public services cost money, yet under this Government they appear to have no chance of getting it, leaving residents to suffer.

Press Release: Crawley Labour Launches Campaign For More Police Officers

Crawley Labour activists were joined by leading Shadow Cabinet Member Emily Thornberry as they launched a campaign to get more police back on Crawley’s streets.

Following the rise of violence on Crawley’s streets over recent months, Crawley Labour has launched a petition to ensure the voice of local residents is clearly heard by Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who is responsible for setting the budget for the town’s police.

Since 2010, the number of police officers in the local area has declined by over 700 and Crawley has lost its designated neighbourhood PCSOs, while residents across the town have complained about decreasing police responsiveness, drug selling moving out into residential areas and increasing knife-crime.

The petition calls upon the Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure Crawley that is allocated the officers it needs to restore a meaningful response for those who contact the police, and to end the wave of drugs and violence which has recently plagued the town.

Cllr Peter Lamb, Crawley Council Leader and Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley, said:

“It’s common sense that if you take hundreds of police officers off of our streets, law and order is going to suffer. Local residents regularly complain to me about the declining responsiveness from the police and I’m determined to ensure that Crawley’s voice is heard loudly and clearly by Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner.”

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 24th October 2018

The Police have had a difficult time over recent years. In our area alone over 700 officers have been lost since the Conservatives entered Government and even with a recent boost in recruitment, the service is forced to go on operating with hundreds fewer  officers than they had just a few years ago.

Despite the denials, the consequences of this are plain, with the rise of knife-crime on our streets and regular reports from residents of drug dealing taking place on their doorsteps. It’s common sense: if you cut police numbers, law and order suffers.

While I’ve no direct say over how the police operate, as council leader people often reach out to me to express frustration when they find calls to 101 going unanswered, when officers won’t respond to a break-in taking place on their property or when children launching fireworks at cars goes ignored.

There is no excuse why, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, residents should be forced to wonder whether if the worst happens the emergency services will actually respond, if they can even be reached. Yet, even if the big stuff could be addressed, much of what was once taken for granted is no longer being delivered by the police.

We were told earlier this month that Sussex Police will no longer deal with lost property. While that is a very minor thing to lose the range of antisocial behaviour issues now going unaddressed, when the police are the only ones with the power to act, is not minor, it has a big impact on the life of a community.

Nationally, Labour has committed to putting another 10,000 police officers back on the beat, if elected into Government. It is sorely needed, but Crawley shouldn’t have to wait for another General Election to get the policing residents deserve. That’s why I’m campaigning locally with Crawley Labour members to put pressure on Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner to allocate the town the policing resources we need to ensure that once residents’ once again know that when they contact the police they will get a meaningful response.

Saving Crawley Open House, West Sussex County Council Written Statement

In under seven weeks, almost 15,000 people have signed petitions stating:

‘This petition demands that West Sussex County Council rejects the proposed cuts to Housing Related Support, which will cause untold misery for the most vulnerable members of our society, and instead maintains this vital support for our local homeless.’

The message is clear: West Sussex residents are calling upon county councillors to rule out cuts to Housing Related Support, not just to put them out to consultation, not to delay them until the budget-setting meeting and not to express personal concerns before ultimately voting them through.

While district-tier councils, as housing authorities, deliver statutory housing functions, this funding is about West Sussex meeting its duty of care to vulnerable adults, part of the council’s social care role. In fact since 2003, West Sussex has received tens of millions in dedicated funding from central government precisely to meet those obligations. In 2011, that funding was base-lined into the county council’s grant, meaning elected members are free to decide how to spend the money in fulfilling the council’s responsibilities. Following a question on the proposed cuts I had raised in Parliament, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for MHCLG, said:

“[I]t is for local authorities, who are independent of central government, to make decisions on spending and manage their budgets in line with locally determined priorities.”

That means it’s up to individual county councillors to decide whether this funding is worth maintaining. Let’s be clear exactly who depends upon these services, it’s rough sleepers with nowhere to go, women fleeing domestic abuse, children exiting care and older people who need help to stay in their own homes. The people this money is there to support are the most vulnerable members of our society, people who count on us to stand up for them.

No one doubts the county council faces tough financial choices, least of all other councillors, but prevention is key to cutting costs. As Cllr Daniel Humphreys, Leader of Worthing Borough Council, recently told members of Adur and Worthing Councils:

“I suspect that if this money was taken away the people who are being supported would probably just end up back on the doorstep of County Hall needing other forms of Adult Services anyway.”

When we remove at-home support from older people, they are forced into nursing homes. When we push children out of supported housing they become a new generation of street homeless. When we leave people on the streets, every part of the public sector feels the effects. The costs just keep going up.

There is another way, other councils have successfully focused on generating new revenue instead of making efficiencies, but even when it comes to cuts we’ve shown there are far better alternatives than this. Residents, charities, local MPs, councillors and council leaders, and even the Government has made it clear West Sussex doesn’t have to make these cuts, it is up to members of the county council to now decide if they will stand with us in supporting the vulnerable.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 17th October 2018

Representatives of every political party claim to stand up for the interests of the people they were elected to serve and, for all the disagreements over what those interests are and how best to deliver them, most of the time they probably believe it’s what they’re doing. What is much harder to believe is when local Conservative county councillors claim to be acting in Crawley’s best interests, when they are the first to fall in line when the orders are sent out from Chichester.

Last week, Cllr Duncan Crow, Leader of the Crawley Conservative Group, wrote his column under the title ‘Conservative campaign put Crawley first’ although all it really discussed was a rather selective account of how the independent Local Government Boundary Commission came up with the boundaries we will using for borough council elections in future.

Yet, I see no evidence from his group that it is Crawley and not the county council that they are putting first, constantly defending the county for the shoddy state of our roads and parking, for the under-investment in our schools and for cuts to vital services like Fire and Rescue. That may all be in the best interests of the Conservative Party, but it’s certainly not in the best interests of the town.

So, here’s my challenge to the Conservative county councillors claiming to put Crawley first: if you want people to believe you, your actions need to match up to your words and this week is the perfect opportunity to prove yourselves.

At tonight’s Full Council meeting in Crawley we will be debating a motion calling upon the county council to maintain funding for Crawley Open House and the other vulnerable peoples’ housing services they hold responsibility for, then on Friday at West Sussex County Council our petition demanding they stop the cuts–as signed by almost 15,000 people–is being debated. If you want people to believe you genuinely put the town first and don’t simply follow the orders of the Conservative Party big wigs in Chichester: don’t just do what your told, vote with us to maintain Crawley’s services.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 10th October 2018

Last week, TGI Fridays, McDonald’s, Wetherspoons, Deliveroo and UberEats workers joined coordinated action against the low pay and poor working conditions rife in the fast food sector.

No one wants strikes, least of all employees living a hand-to-mouth existence and who sacrifice pay in the process, but the only reason any of us have paid holiday, sick leave, maternity leave, reasonable working hours and a two-day weekend is past generations of trade unionists fought for us to have them. Action is necessary if things are going to improve.

All-too-often these jobs are seen as being short-term and consequently the conditions aren’t given the attention they deserve. Yet, workers are gradually find themselves occupying these–and similar–positions for much longer, with the precariousness of their employment taking a toll and regardless, everyone deserve’s a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.

While the recent announcement that restaurants will be banned from keeping tips–not yet in law–is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The employees on strike last week work for companies with huge revenues, yet for their workers, low pay and poor conditions are the norm. Their call for an hourly wage of £10 and union recognition is far from unreasonable.

Jobs across all sectors are becoming increasingly fragile as companies seek to squeeze more out of their workforce for less, with many trying to re-define their workers as self-employed in order to off-load their employment obligations, meanwhile corporate profitability keeps going up. The changes now taking place to our economy are fundamentally changing the nature of work for the worse and will, in time, affect everyone if we do nothing to stop them.

This strike is part of the attempt to rollback the ‘Gig Economy’ and it’s important that we support it, but more is needed. Labour will not only bring into effect a real Living Wage and new legal protection for those in work, but a direct input into how the businesses they are helping to build is run, ensuring workers can future-proof their jobs against the changes to come.

Press Release: GMB Call For Early Intervention By Sussex Combined CCGs As Patient Transport Provider Thames Ambulance Service Announce Redundancies

Once again the problem is that hard working staff and GMB members are going to bear the brunt of another private contractor failure in Sussex, says GMB Southern

GMB, the Union for the Ambulance Service, are calling for early intervention by Sussex combined CCG’s after Patient Transport Provider Thames Ambulance Service Ltd (TASL) announced ten proposed redundancies within the Sussex Patient Transport services.

GMB are concerned that today’s announcement by TASL within the Sussex PTS is just a prelude and warning of things to come regarding the private provider’s ability and desire to continue working for South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) and the combined Sussex CCG’s.

The union have already met with TASL to seek assurances that they will go back to SCAS to look to resume discussions and champion the case for the safe transfer of all 42 staff back into the NHS.

Over the coming months GMB will continue to make representations to all involved in the provision of Sussex PTS services for demand to be increased to match TASL’s current available capacity to avoid redundancies.

GMB will also be contacting the CCG’s and local MP’s looking for support in assisting with that transfer process as a matter of priority.

Gary Palmer GMB Regional Organiser said:

“I had hoped that the Coperforma fiasco lessons around private PTS provision in the county had been learnt. Especially when those involved and responsible, like Wendy Carberry who was the accountable officer at that time, continue to play an even more Embargosenior role in the newly formed, The Central Sussex and East Surrey Commissioning Alliance Executive Team.

“However, clearly the support required in ensuring that Sussex PTS moved fully back into the NHS and that SCAS and its contractors were supported during that process in clearing up the Commissioners mess in the first place hasn’t happened.
“NHS Central Sussex and East Surrey Commissioning Alliance must take a lead along with the GMB Union in supporting SCAS to fully take back into the NHS all Sussex Patient Transport Services currently provided by private sector company TASL.

“Once again the problem is that hard working staff and GMB members are going to bear the brunt of another private contractor failure in Sussex. TASL appear to have been open and honest with us as the recognised union representing PTS staff within the company with regard to the actual company issues and decision making and the consequential financial ramifications, but these redundancies could and can still be avoided, if all stakeholders are open to trying to seek to advance transfer talks.
“We want to be able to ensure that patients need not fear a return to the Coperforma days of old, when expectations of being provided with patient transport far outweighed the actual reality of service delivery.

“TASL says it wishes to make redundancies rather than exit the contract in Sussex because of continued financial losses from reduced demand by SCAS. This supports GMB’s condemnation of the private sector involvement, on the whole, as the transport and treatment of patients when profit is either above or equal to patient need is wrong. This will lead to the end of the NHS as we know it if the Government continues its deliberate relaxation of procurement regulations in support of its aim of a wholly privatised broken up National Health service at which Tory supporting companies can share out services to drain public coffers.

“Unfortunately, if unable to or whilst we seek to persuade TASL to step back from the redundancy process, we will be looking to them to mitigate reducing possible redundancy numbers even further and in applying and ensuring fair selection processes including seeking possible voluntary redundancies in the first instance.

“It’s going to be a real shame that such professional and experienced PTS specialists are going to be lost to the Service, Patients and County and devastating to those staff and their families who might find themselves compulsorily made redundant with Christmas around the corner. GMB will be there to support all who need us and we will continue to make robust representation to all involved in regard to doing the right thing.”

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove said:

“I’m urging the CCG to resolve this urgently and to bring the service back into the reliable and trustworthy control of the NHS.

“Patients and staff have suffered too much for too long and it’s time to put this issue to bed once and for all.”

Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council said:
“Patients and those working for our National Health Service deserve better treatment than this. It’s time the decision-makers drew a line under this whole sorry business and brought patient transport back into public hands.”

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 3rd October 2018

I’m often told when Crawley was built, residents were told there would be homes for ‘you’, for ‘your children’ and for ‘your children’s children’. It was a bold pledge, particularly since the country was bankrupt at the time, but it was also a time when voters felt that the State which had beaten the Far Right in the Second World War was capable of delivering for Britain in peace time too.

The New Town dream is something I remain committed to and delivering affordable housing for local people has been my top priority since I became Leader of Crawley Borough Council. When Labour returned to control of the council in 2014 we were elected on a manifesto of building 1,000 genuinely affordable new homes in four years, many times more than the Conservatives had built in their eight years running the council, and we delivered on that promise.

When we pushed to bring in a rule requiring developers to deliver 40% affordable housing as part of all new sites brought forward, the Conservatives fought us the whole way, telling us the Planning Inspectorate would never sign off on it. We won, despite their protests.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much we can do as a council. More and more Crawley residents are forced into the private rented sector, unable to afford a place of their own and, since the introduction of Right to Buy, without any chance of accessing a council home. While the majority of landlords behave honestly, rents remain far too high for too many, with the weakest rights over the places in which they live of any form of tenure and often uncertain as to how long before they are forced to move on. As a member of Generation Rent, I can tell you living precariously is no fun.

We can fix this problem and leave a housing legacy to the next generation, but it requires change nationally. Labour has committed to taking the shackles off of councils, letting us build much larger numbers of affordable homes and gifting the county an asset for the future. That’s an investment worth making.