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Councils across West Sussex meet to discuss budget cuts, without Crawley Council

Further clashes between West Sussex County Council & Crawley Borough Council.

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Yesterday (12 September), West Sussex County Council released a statement saying ‘Conservative council leaders’ from across the county held a meeting to discuss the budget cuts impacting West Sussex.

In the meeting earlier this week, the Leaders of West Sussex County Council, Adur and Worthing Councils, Arun District Council, Chichester District Council, Horsham District Council, Mid Sussex District Council agreed how they could work together to try to ‘mitigate the potential impacts of the cuts on vulnerable groups.’

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Crawley Borough Council however, did not attend the meeting.

The participating councils released this joint statement:

“All the Conservative council leaders from across West Sussex met earlier this week to discuss the budget situation faced by West Sussex County Council due to lack of central government funding.

“West Sussex County Council explained the financial challenges of reduced government funding and the increased demands for the statutory services of Children’s and Adult Social Care.

“West Sussex County Council has already saved £145m over the last 8 years but now faces a funding gap of £146m over the next 4 years.

“The leaders agreed how they could work together to try to mitigate the potential impacts of the cuts on vulnerable groups.

“It was acknowledged that in the next four year period there is insufficient funding and it was agreed to write collectively to the Government highlighting the difficult decisions that will need to be taken if social care services are not adequately funded.

“They expressed regret that Crawley Borough Council would not participate in this joint work for local communities.”

Leader of Crawley Borough Council Peter Lamb, responded to the statement. He also put in a formal complaint to West Sussex County Council, asking for a public apology. He claims that West Sussex’s comment stating Crawley Borough Council ‘would not participate in this joint work’ is not true.

Peter Lamb said:

“Crawley is standing with the almost 10,000 West Sussex residents who have demanded that Louise Goldsmith and Nathan Elvery drop the proposed cuts to housing services for vulnerable adults. These increasingly desperate statements show the community has the council’s leadership on the back foot and we will not be bullied into backing down.”

In his complaint, Mr Lamb reports a breach of ‘the Code of Practice on Local Authority Publicity’ and ‘Part II of the Local Government Act (1986)’. He says:

“We expect WSCC to investigate this complaint thoroughly, identify which officers or members have been involved in putting together the wording, and to take appropriate disciplinary action in addition to making a full public apology.”

West Sussex County Council’s has since issued an amended statement. The first sentence now reads: “All the council leaders from across West Sussex (with the exception of Crawley Borough Council) met earlier this week to discuss the budget situation faced by West Sussex County Council due to lack of central government funding.”

It was last week that the Leader of Crawley Borough Council, wrote a strongly worded letter to West Sussex County Council, informing them that unless they changed their plans for cuts, Crawley Council would make no further effort to work with the County Council on future projects.

Mr Lamb said:

“Until such time as West Sussex Changes its course we will be withdrawing from West Sussex Leader Board activities and while honouring current agreements, we will be taking no further steps towards joint working the county.

“We simply cannot work with people who believe such actions to be moral.”

Over 8,200 people have signed an online petition which ‘demands that West Sussex County Council rejects the proposed cuts to Housing Related Support’. The cuts would see services like Crawley Open House have their funding completely cut: for the Crawley based hostel, this is a contract worth around £250,000.

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Gatwick

Gatwick Airport staff who assist passengers suspend strike

Two planned 48 hour stoppages involving Gatwick airport workers which were set to start tomorrow (Tuesday 20 November) and Monday 26 November have been suspended while workers vote on a revised pay offer, the Unite union announced today (Monday 19 November).

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The workers, employed by the logistics giant Wilson James, provide assistance to passengers with disabilities and those who need help getting around Gatwick airport.

The dispute centres on a demand for a £1 an hour pay rise. Those assisting disabled passengers are paid just £8.27 per hour.

Workers will now vote on whether to accept or reject a revised offer with voting closing on Monday 10 December. A third planned 48-hour stoppage on 21/23 December is set to go ahead should members reject the offer and the pay dispute remains unresolved.

Commenting Unite regional officer Jamie Major said:

“The two 48 hour stoppages in November have been suspended while members vote on whether to accept or reject a new pay offer from Wilson James.

“The last thing our members want is to cause inconvenience and distress to those passengers who rely on their services during their time at Gatwick.

“However, should they reject the new pay offer and no resolution to the dispute is found, then the possibility of a 48 hour strike in December remains live.”

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