When I became Leader of the Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group in 2014, I publicly stated that the Conservatives should act responsibly in opposition. We are there to hold the ruling Labour Group to account but we still have a responsibility to ensure that the Council runs well and that the right things are done for the town. While seeking to win political arguments does have its place, it must never come before acting responsibly and doing what is right for Crawley.
For example, the Council’s budget is arguably the most important thing each year that Councillors vote on. The Conservative opposition usually has policies we would like to advance or some Labour policies we’d like to stop. This year we moved a budget amendment to try and stop Labour scrapping Crawley’s programme for neighbourhood parking improvements. We had a vote on that and Labour won. Having lost our budget amendment vote, the Conservative Group then supported the Council’s budget because to leave the Council without any budget at all would be highly irresponsible.
While I instinctively felt that acting responsibly in opposition was right, it was driven in part by my experience of seeing how Labour had behaved during their eight years of opposition at Crawley Borough Council from 2006 to 2014. I observed negative and disruptive behaviour where any political advantage came first and where Crawley came a poor second.
I now don’t see this at Crawley Borough Council as Labour control the Council once again. However, I still observe it at West Sussex County Council where Labour are in opposition. For the last two years, when Labour’s budget amendments have been lost, they have recklessly voted against the County Council’s entire budget - putting vital services and investment at risk.
This means that Labour County Councillors from Crawley have voted against much-needed expansion of local schools, against road resurfacing and pavement renewals, against the refurbishment of Crawley Fire Station and the purchase of new modern firefighting equipment, and against the provision of Adult Social Care. If only they could learn lessons from the Conservative opposition in Crawley.