Crawley’s political ‘blood-letting’ exported to County Hall

Chichester's County Hall
Chichester's County Hall
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Crawley’s political ‘blood-letting’ was ‘exported’ to County Hall during a county council debate last Friday.

Less than 48 hours after a row erupted between Labour and the Conservatives at Crawley Borough Council over a motion opposing tax credits county councillors from the two parties were arguing about proposed boundary changes.

Sue Mullins

Sue Mullins

At a West Sussex County Council meeting in Chichester Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East), whose division could be amalgamated with another, told the Conservatives she ‘did not realise I was such a thorn in your side’ and that they would be ‘driven to such great lengths to get rid of me’.

She added: “I’m truly flattered. I did not know I was making such an impact.”

She argued that Duncan Crow (Con, Tilgate and Furnace Green) and Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill and Worth), both also Crawley borough councillors, had put their heads together to ‘completely redraw the Crawley boundaries’ to create a possible new Conservative seat and described proposals as a ‘mishmash’ that ‘gerrymandered’ voting patterns towards the ruling Tory group.

She continued: “I’m so impressed that the Labour Group comprising of just six members is so effective, is posing such a challenge, and is causing the ruling group so many problems.”

But Mr Burrett said that Mr Crow had spent a ‘huge amount of time’ on proposals and explained that the boundary commission’s number one criteria was electoral equality across all the divisions.

Because of the new Forge Wood development changes to the divisions were necessary to ensure that county councillors represented roughly the same amount of Crawley residents each.

Mr Crow told Mrs Mullins that the proposals the county council was putting to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England were about ‘fairness and representation’ and added: “Your group in Crawley is getting a reputation for promoting unfairness.”

The commission will look at responses and then make a final decision.

Proposed changes would see the Maidenbower division gain Worth but lose some of Pound Hill South, Southgate and Crawley Central would be deleted while Northgate and West Green would be created, Gossops Green would lose Ifield East but gain most of Southgate, and Langley Green would lose West Green and gain most of Ifield East.

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) felt the new Three Bridge and Pound Hill South ward was a ‘bizarre’ butterfly shape centring on the railway station, and argued the changes would ‘cause a lot of unhappiness in Crawley’, to which Mr Crow shouted ‘rubbish’.

Mr Jones also suggested that the Labour Group might have to submit its own proposals directly to the boundary commission.

Bill Acraman (Con, Worth Forest), chairman of the county council’s Electoral Review Panel, said: “I’m sorry that for the first time in 20 years the blood-letting which is a general feature of Crawley Borough Council meetings has been exported to this building.

“This review has been cross-party and in the three reviews over those 20 years this is the first time it has got party political and I’m very disappointed this is where we are.”

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