As we recover from Christmas and get ready to start a new year, it’s worth taking the time to review the year just gone and look ahead to the year about to begin.
In Crawley, it’s been a politically turbulent year to say the least. At the Town Hall we saw a change of Leader, mass defections of senior local Tories to Ukip, major delays to key policies and in the final fortnight of the year the ruling Conservative Group even failed to carry their own Local Plan.
Labour councillors successfully fought off attempts to remove local play areas from various neighbourhoods and following a Labour motion on the Living Wage the council has now agreed to pay all of its own workers the rate, including staff employed under any future outsourcing contract.
Gatwick is back on the political agenda and following a council debate we now await more details on the environmental and economic impact of a new runway before taking a formal position.
Lastly, I was very happy to welcome Ed Miliband to the town to speak with local residents and visit a pre-school with Chris Oxlade, Labour’s candidate for the next General Election.
Looking ahead to the new year, the town faces many challenges. Half of all new households in the town can’t afford to access private housing locally and we must to more to ensure that all Crawley residents can afford a house on their earnings.
We must also do much more to improve employment locally.
While the airport has helped the town to avoid high unemployment in the past, far too many jobs are poorly paid and with the recession there often aren’t enough hours for people to afford to meet even basic needs.
We need to work with local businesses to ensure residents can earn enough to thrive and call on Government to do more to tackle the cost of living, such as through introducing Labour’s energy price freeze.
Crawley faces real challenges in the years ahead and needs representatives who have both the vision and the drive to overcome those challenges and ensure we have a town fit for the future.
Anyway, enough of the serious stuff, a happy New Year to you all.