Heated row at Crawley Town Hall over tax credits motion

Crawley Town Hall
Crawley Town Hall

A heated row broke out at Crawley Town Hall on Wednesday night with both Labour and the Tories accusing each other of being ‘infantile’ and ‘shambolic’.

Crawley borough councillors were debating a Labour motion which called on the authority’s leader to write to the Government to oppose changes to tax credits announced in the Budget earlier this month.

But two Conservative amendments to the motion were ruled out of order by mayor Chris Cheshire (Lab, Bewbush) after talking to officers, much to the anger of opposition members.

Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill North) told councillors it was ‘absolutely ridiculous’ for the amendments to be ruled out of order, and added: “If that’s what [Jeremy] Corbyn’s Labour Party will be like I hope the public and press see what it will be like.”

Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green) leader of the Conservative Group at CBC, said: “This is totally shambolic. If there were any problems these should have been raised before this meeting and we could have avoided this shambles.

“The truth hurts and they know very well the Conservative Group are not going to vote for a motion like this. It’s desperate stuff by a desperate party.”

But Chris Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green), cabinet member for wellbeing, described the Conservatives’ first amended motion as being ‘divisive’ and felt it ‘should not be allowed’.

The first amendment added the caveat that the motion was supported by the council’s 19-strong Labour Group, but not the 18-strong Conservative Group.

Meanwhile the second amendment started: ‘In supporting the needs of the Labour Party’, instead of ‘In supporting the needs of local residents the council authorises the leader of the council to write to the Government on behalf of the authority’.

Brenda Smith (Lab, Langley Green) called the Conservatives’ behaviour ‘spurious’ and ‘infantile’. She told Mr Crow: “That you sit there smirking is ridiculous. You are the leader [of the Conservative Group] and I spent six years as leader of the opposition.”

John Stanley (Lab, Ifield) felt the opposition were being ‘very naughty’, and said if they ‘can’t calm down’ they would be reported to the Standards Committee.

Leader of Crawley Borough Council Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate), who put forward the motion, expressed regret that ‘people wanted to play party political games rather than talking about how people are going to put food on the table’.

He said the Tory amendments predetermined how councillors would vote on the motion, and would potentially breach the Nolan Principles and council standards.

But Bob Lanzer (Con, Maidenbower) welcomed the introduction of a national ‘living wage’ of £9 an hour by 2020 in the Budget and increases in the personal allowance, while the general election result showed a ‘concerted belief’ in the country that the benefits bill was too high.

Michael Jones (Lab, Bewbush), cabinet member for public protection and community engagement, second the Labour motion and felt it ‘should not be underestimated how important tax credits are to people on middle and low incomes in Crawley’.

He also spoke of his ‘disgust’ at how pleased some Tory MPs such as Iain Duncan Smith seemed during the Budget.

The original motion was passed at the end of the debate.

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