Crawley ‘can no longer be county council’s whipping boy’

Tory opposition group leader Duncan Crow and Crawley Borough Council's Labour leader Peter Lamb
Tory opposition group leader Duncan Crow and Crawley Borough Council's Labour leader Peter Lamb

Crawley can ‘no longer continue to be the county council’s whipping boy’, according to Labour.

Earlier this year Crawley Borough Council (CBC) ended funding for ‘residential environmental improvement schemes’, which created extra parking in areas where there were acute shortage of spaces.

Instead the £1.3m was diverted to be spent on a district heating network, which will be built as part of the redevelopment of Crawley Town Hall.

However, the Labour-led council has since received £1.4m from the Government towards the district heating network.

Tory councillors have argued the money for parking improvements should be reinstated and submitted a notice of motion to that effect last Wednesday (July 19).

However, a Labour group amendment to the motion called for CBC to approach West Sussex County Council as the highways authority to provide funding to reinstate the residential parking improvement budget for 2017/18 instead.

Councillor Duncan Crown (Con, Furnace Green), leader of the Conservative opposition group, suggested the money would allow them to address the most serious parking problems, while Councillor Kim Jaggard (Con, Maidenbower) felt the original decision to axe the improvement scheme was taken with ‘total disregard for Crawley’s parking problems’.

But Councillor Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate), leader of CBC, pointed out that the county council was the highways authority, adding: “We have tried to do our best, but we are not longer in a position to be West Sussex County Council’s whipping boy.”

He added: “We are not in a position where we can continue to bail out the county council.”

Councillor Geraint Thomas (Lab, Northgate), cabinet member for environmental services and sustainability, said: “We have done our best in increasingly straitened financial times and are managing to keep our heads above water but it’s becoming increasingly difficult.”

Councillor Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield), cabinet member for planning and economic development, raised the fact a county council road space audit for Crawley is due to start soon, which will look at the town’s overall parking needs.

He said: “We need to take an overall systematic look at the problem rather than making cheap points.”

But Councillor Francis Guidera (Con, Tilgate) said: “It’s making people’s lives a misery and we need to do something about it.”

The amended motion was approved.

Afterwards Cllr Crow said: “Labour’s policy is to do nothing except blame West Sussex County Council, arguing that only a highway authority should pay for creating extra parking spaces, while failing to recognise the role that Crawley Borough Council continues to have as the local planning authority in allowing housing without enough parking.

“We also need to recognise that Crawley Borough Council has a vast amount of financial reserves from council house sales which the County Council simply doesn’t have.”