Press Release: ‘Shocking’ Statistic: 2,226 Patients For Every GP In Crawley

In Figures Revealed Following A Request Made By Labour Councillor Geraint Thomas

This week it emerged that the ratio of residents to General Practitioners in Crawley is one of the worst in the UK; the figures show that there is 1 doctor for every 2,226 residents in Crawley. To put that statistic into perspective, Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire has nearly one GP for every 1,200 residents.

The ratio for Crawley came out following a request by Northgate Councillor Geraint Thomas after BBC analysis earlier this month showed that access to GPs in some areas could vary by as much as threefold that of others.

Although the Royal College of General Practitioners chairwoman Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard said the national findings were “shocking”, many Crawley residents will be unsurprised.

Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: ‘It’s a travesty that so many in Crawley are being left unable to access their GP for medical treatment, or in some cases to even register with a local GP. Two years after Crawley’s NHS entered Special Measures, our community still sees no action on the part of the Government to get the problem stored. It’s increasingly clear that only a party which really believes in our National Health Service will give it the investment it needs to ensure Crawley’s medical needs are met.’

In 2017 a lack of funding and reports that many residents were unable to register to their local GP surgeries led the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing Crawley to be placed into special measures, where it has remained ever since.

A ‘shocking’ new statistical analysis from the BBC has shown that in Crawley there is one doctor per every 2,226 residents.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 6th February 2019

This evening, Crawley Council’s Cabinet will set the budget we’ll be sending to Full Council for members to agree later in the month.

I’ve often written about the unfair way the Government has cut the amount councils and the police get from Income Tax–where those who earn more pay more–and have demanded that we increase Council Tax instead–which hits pensioners and those on low incomes hardest. Well, now they’ve come up with a new bright idea, the ‘Fair Funding Review.’

Under this review, Crawley looks set to have almost a million pounds taken from us, on top of the existing planned cuts to what we get, and have that money given to councils in wealthier areas. Apparently, that’s what ‘Fair’ means when it comes to this Government and our community will have to suffer the consequences of it.

Despite the cuts, Crawley Borough Council are set to spend the same on services next year as when we regained control of the council five years ago, we’re probably the only council in the country that can say that and it hasn’t been easy. When Crawley residents trusted us with their council, we decided to try and find ways to avoid passing the Government’s cuts down onto residents and so far we’ve managed to succeed, finding new ways to raise revenue equal to what the Government are taking.

Contrast that with Conservative-run West Sussex, whose decision to cut from the start has simply forced them to make bigger and bigger cuts over the years. The sad reality is, as a forward-looking council, Crawley’s hard work means our community are now being asked to pay for the incompetence of others.

Still, we’re never without a plan. Our decision to knock down the Town Hall and replace it with a new building with far lower running costs, Grade-A commercial office space for rent, a combined heat and power plant selling low carbon energy across the town centre, and hundreds of new homes, with 40% affordable for local people means that–despite the Government’s best efforts–Crawley Labour will keep delivering for Crawley.

Press Release: Thomas Bennett Academy Listed Among The UK’S Worst Performing Schools

Local Labour Party Continues Call For The Beleaguered School To Return To Public Hands

Last week, Tilgate’s struggling academy school Thomas Bennett Community College was officially marked down by the Department for Education as one of 382 secondary schools failing to meet the government’s minimum standard.

Mismanagement and repeated cuts handed down by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) are likely to have contributed to the assessment result.

Crawley’s Labour Party continues its call for the school to be returned to public hands at the first opportunity, a demand that has become increasingly popular among Crawley residents as well as teachers, pupils and parents.

With the full support of Crawley Labour, hundreds of Crawley residents marched through the town centre last summer in protest of a series of cuts planned by TKAT. It became the largest protest the town had seen in decades.

To date, thousands of concerned members of the public have signed different petitions calling for the return of Thomas Bennett to local authority control and for the school to be properly funded. Crawley Labour wholeheartedly endorses both aims.

Council Leader Peter Lamb said: ‘Thomas Bennett was once one of the best value added schools in West Sussex, it’s a very sad day to see how far it has fallen since academisation. No parent in Crawley should be forced to send their child to a failing school. The public must now be given back control over Thomas Bennett, to make the school accountable to the community once more.’

Ms. Kiran Khan is a former Thomas Bennett pupil who worked on the Save Thomas Bennett Camapaign, and is now standing to be Labour Borough Councillor for Tilgate in May’s local elections.

Kiran Khan said: ‘Thomas Bennett Community College was widely recognised as a good school before it became an academy. So many parents, teachers and former pupils have spoken to me about their fond memories of the school. If we want to turn back the clock to better days, returning the school to local authority control is how to achieve it.’

3,297 schools and academies in England are subject to the government’s standard, a performance threshold with a particular focus on English and Maths. Thomas Bennett is one of 382 schools to have failed to achieve sufficient progress.

Crawley Labour says the answer to the disastrous academisation of  Thomas Bennett is to return the school to public control, so that its management is directly answerable to Crawley’s voters.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 30th January 2019

Around the year, whatever the weather, I’m out every weekend with other Labour councillors in Crawley asking residents what matters to them and what the issues are in their area. Most of the time people say they have nothing to raise with us, but sometimes people do highlight ways we can help their family and our community. In either case, it’s a good chance to check if the things we’re working to deliver as elected representatives are the right priorities and to get feedback on how we’re doing.

On Monday we received some major feedback with the publication of Cities Outlook 2019 by the Centre for Cities, the UK’s leading urban policy thinktank. While Crawley does not have the Royal Charter required to call itself a city, nor the population size typical of cities, our economic weight justifies our inclusion in the report. Cities Outlook rates cities’ performance annually and yet again Crawley has come out close to the top.

When I became Council Leader in 2014, I made the council’s priorities homes, jobs and the community, all the while working to find new income sources to make up for Government cuts.

The figures prove this strategy has worked. Cities Outlook shows Crawley has suffered fewer cuts than almost any other area since 2010, although for some reason the county council is investing less in our adult social care for the elderly than they do in Worthing.

Our jobs market remains strong, with local workers making amongst greatest contribution to the UK economy and we’re innovating, with the sixth highest number of patents. Wages remain high too, although still far too few local people are getting the best paying jobs.

My favourite stat is on housing though, an issue where we know the local need is desperate. Despite being the second smallest of the areas covered, we’re delivering the seventh biggest increase in housing stock in the country. We’re working hard to build affordable homes for local people.

It’s always good to get an independent opinion, and the independent report this week proves that Crawley Labour are delivering for Crawley.

Crawley Post Office to close

Despite over 200 responses and protests from both local councils, Post Office Ltd have decided to close the Crown Post Office and franchise some of the services out to WH Smith in County Mall.
 
Be in no doubt, this will drastically reduce access for those with disabilities, amongst other groups of users, and mean many services will no longer be available in our town. Totally unacceptable from an organisation still wholly-owned by the UK Government, and yet where this Government is unwilling to act to protect residents’ services.
 

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 23th January 2019

Is there any end to the chaos? Another week goes by and control slips further from Theresa May’s grasp, and the country is left wondering when we will again have a Government focused on the real challenges people face every day.

When will we have a Government ready to give us the police we need to crack down on the drugs and violence we have seen in Crawley over recent months on an unprecedented scale?

When will we have a Government ready to invest in healthcare, so we can get Crawley’s NHS out of financial Special Measures, and restore patients’ access to GPs without the need for rationing?

When will we have a Government ready to listen to the headteachers unable to provide children with the education they deserve due to a lack of resources, with ‘ Special Educational Needs going unmet?

When will we have a Government ready to take the shackles off councils, so we can again build affordable housing on the scale necessary to fix the UK’s housing crisis?

When will we have a Government ready to ensure our nation’s most senior citizens can live their final years without fearing they will be left without the support they need or else face financial ruin to access care?

When will we have a Government ready to deliver the transport infrastructure we require to get to work and go about our daily lives?

When will we have a Government ready to help people access meaningful work, with decent conditions and long-term prospects?

For the last three years we’ve been left without a Government, as Theresa May has bet everything on trying to deliver one thing, the one thing it transpires she cannot deliver.

As a country and a community, don’t we deserve better? The Government has shown they either cannot or will not deliver for local people. For that to change it is now clear that the Government has to change. Until that happens, my team and I at the council will continue on the ground, focusing on the needs of local people as we go on delivering for Crawley.

Press Release: Crawley joins money-saving insurance mutual

Crawley Borough Council has become one of the founding members of the Local Government Mutual, helping to save money every year.

The mutual aims to save its members money by offering an effective alternative to the conventional insurance products and services available to local authorities.

Any surpluses the mutual generates may be used to reduce the cost of insurance, improve the claims process or returned back to members as income.

The structure of the mutual means the council will not pay insurance premium tax, currently set at 12 per cent, on the vast majority of insurance products.

As well as saving money, the mutual puts councils in control by working together, sharing knowledge of best practice and reducing members’ risk exposure without increased costs.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Peter Lamb, said: “It’s great to see Crawley Borough Council become a founding member of this initiative. The mutual is another way the council is saving money to put back into services and to reduce the forecasted budget gap.”

As a member, the council can still choose between the mutual and private companies for its insurance. However, the mutual can offer price matching or better cover that is up-to-date with changes in local authorities’ organisational and operational activities.

The council can insure through the mutual from 1 April 2020.

Find out more about the Local Government Mutual here: http://www.local.gov.uk/new-local-government-mutual

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 16th January 2019

Despite the ongoing chaos on the national level, with our country left with a Conservative Government which is in office but out of control, I will resist the temptation to again raise Brexit and its potential implications for Crawley, and instead discuss something which really got to me this week.

For years, young people have been complaining that Sussex Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, or CAMHS to use its well-known acronym, isn’t fit for purpose. This isn’t the fault of the mental healthcare workers, who will always do their best, but as with the rest of our NHS it simply doesn’t have anything like the resources it needs to deal with the ongoing spread of mental illness amongst Britain’s youth, with children left in despair for months unable to access the treatment they need to get well.

This week I was confronted with the utter desperation that this creates. Where a young person’s cry for help left their body permanently damaged and where a parent was left with no one to turn to when the services we would all expect were already filled to capacity. A decade ago, England’s NHS adopted a constitution which said mental health would be treated as just as much of a priority as physical health, and yet ten years on attempted suicide is left up to a parent to deal with. Is this the sort of country we are letting our Government turn us into: totally uncaring about the needs of its people.

We need much, much more investment in mental health services, but that alone doesn’t go nearly far enough. We have to ask ourselves why so many young people now feel that there is no hope, that they have no value, that they are unloved, and then we owe it to them and to ourselves to fix it. We need to build a society which no longer sees people as a number, be it what they have in the bank or their number of friends on Facebook, but which puts people and community back at the heart of our system once more.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 9th January 2019

Another month goes by and Crawley sees another major crime take place in the heart of our community. I’m sick of it and I know most residents feel the same as I do, we shouldn’t be forced to put up with crime on our streets. I regularly have residents writing to me about things they’ve reported which haven’t been investigated and telling me on the doorstep that the ongoing wave of drugs and violence on Crawley’s streets is one of their biggest concerns.

Last Summer, when I called for the Police to be given more resources to get crime under control I was condemned by our local Conservative elite. We had the Police and Crime Commissioner telling us there wasn’t a problem and that the Police Force had all the resources it needed. Yet, here we are months later and the problem simply isn’t going away. It’s time ‘the powers that be’ took their fingers out of their ears and started to listen to what we are all telling them.

Since the 2010 General Election, our area has lost over 700 police officers. Is it any wonder that we see crime going up? For all their boasting about new recruitment, when you take into account the number of police retiring from the force over the next few years they are recruiting less than a third of what they have cut.

Our police do an amazing job, but no matter how capable a team, how on Earth are they supposed to restore order when the Government insists they do it with such low numbers?

Enough is enough, Crawley needs its police back and an end to the wave of drugs and violence plaguing our community.

Unfortunately, Crawley Borough Council isn’t in control of the Police and, while a number of failings on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s part have been highlighted in the past, it’s ultimately central government which sets their grant. If this Government won’t give us the police the town needs, then maybe it’s time the country took Labour up on its offer of an extra 10,000 officers back on the beat.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 2nd January 2019

2018 was a year of great uncertainty, a year we may well be pleased to see the back of. Unfortunately, for those hoping 2019 will mark a return to normality, the country’s failure to resolve the big issues of the past year means that next year is unlikely to be much better.

The biggest issue of all is, of course, Brexit. Crawley’s economy is heavily dependent upon getting some kind of a deal with the EU, with a potentially huge impact for most of our major local employers if nothing is agreed. With the Prime Minister unable to deliver, what will happen next is anyone’s guess, but Crawley’s MP has chosen to pour flames on the fire, rather than to fight our corner right now.

We also wait to see if austerity is actually over. Despite all the promises, Crawley’s Clinical Commissioning Group–responsible for paying for residents’ NHS treatment–remains in financial Special Measures, Sussex Police remain hundreds of officers short from what they had eight years ago helping along the rise of drugs and violence on our streets, and local schools are left without the funding they need to give our children the education they need to build Britain’s future.

In Crawley, the recent review of local government ward boundaries means that for the first time in fifteen years, every councillor will be up for election at the same time. For the last five years, Labour has worked to protect the town from cuts passed down from central government and to build large numbers of new affordable homes for local people, will the town stay the course or go back to stagnation under the Conservatives?

Yet, despite all this uncertainty, we should remain optimistic and not give in to those who profit from apathy. None of the problems we face as a town or a country are irresolvable, they all have solutions if we remain open minded and are prepared to put in the work. Whether we are willing to do what is necessary to thrive, we shall see over the course of 2019. A Happy New Year to you all.