As a Conservative Councillor, I am instinctively in favour of lower taxation, so long as we have good quality as well as good value public services. I was pleased to vote every year for the five years of Council Tax freezes that we had from 2011 to 2015 that saved the average council-tax payer several hundred pounds over this period, with today’s bills being much lower than they would be had they gone up with inflation.
With increased demand for services, we are now seeing Council Tax rise, but thankfully increases are much less than they were under the last Labour Government when the average Council Tax bill doubled. The Conservative Government have brought in a rule that means there has to be a local referendum if any Council tries to raise by 5% or more. Our aging population is seeing record demands for adult social care and we now have a dedicated 2% rise in Council Tax to help address this increased demand.
While Conservative-run West Sussex County Council deliver 80% of local government services, they don’t have the financial luxury of what Labour-run Crawley Borough Council has, of sitting on tens of millions of pounds gained from the sale of council houses. This makes Crawley Borough Council one of the richest Councils in the whole country without the financial pressures that most Councils have.
At last week’s budget meeting at the County Council, as well as agreeing to the regular day-to-day spending, we agreed an ambitious capital programme of investment that included the expansion of the Better Pavements programme which will now see £11 million spent over five years in renewing our pavements.
For the third successive time, Crawley’s Labour County Councillors played negative politics and voted against the County Council’s investment in our town - including money for school expansions, roads, pavements, and previously the major refurbishment of Crawley Fire Station. Incredibly, despite him voting against it, Southgate’s Labour County Councillor turned up to the Fire Station’s official opening last month. A cynic might say to associate himself with it and get his picture in the press.