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Council leader and towns MP call on Government for urgent help to rescue Crawley

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The Leader of Crawley Borough Council and the town’s MP have written to the Government calling for urgent help and listing 10 interventions to rescue the town’s economy.

This follows the recent Centre for Cities report, which forecasts that Crawley will be the most affected economy by the coronavirus crisis. The report predicts that more than 50 per cent of jobs are at risk of being lost or furloughed because the business sectors which are most adversely affected by the crisis contribute significantly to the town’s jobs and economy.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council, and Henry Smith MP have written to the Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, about the unique and huge challenge for the town – and the requirement to ‘ensure that Crawley’s amazing economic success, built up over many decades, is not lost in a matter of weeks’.

The letter states:

“It is quite clear that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the national economy and indeed the world economy is unprecedented. However, due to the business sectors located within the town, and the proportion of local jobs and economic output from these sectors, Crawley is undeniably being hit far harder than any other part of the United Kingdom. These sectors include aviation, transportation, retail/wholesale, leisure and hospitality, all of which are likely to continue to struggle long after the lockdown is lifted.

“To prevent 57 per cent of the town’s workforce being made unemployed, it is critical that the Government takes urgent action, working with Crawley Borough Council and other local and regional stakeholders, to draw up, fund and implement a programme of targeted economic relief and investment in the town.”

Before this crisis began Crawley’s economy had been going from strength to strength. It grew by 23 per cent between 2013 and 2020, the highest in West Sussex, contributing 26 per cent of the county’s economic output, despite being just two per cent of the landmass. Over the same period, the number of jobs in Crawley grew by 13.5 per cent to reach a record 101,000, the second highest job density nationally outside central London.

Councillor Lamb said:

“Crawley generates £124m of business rates each year for the Government from its local business community. A massive economic downturn in Crawley will prove very costly to public finances. We’ve been helping the public purse for decades – it’s now time for the Government to repay that help.

“We stand ready and willing to work with the Government, business and stakeholders on a programme of investment and business relief aid to help rescue Crawley’s economy, preserve as many jobs for our residents as possible and provide desperately-needed support for our business community.”

Henry Smith MP said:

“The Crawley and Gatwick economy has been an undoubted success story for many years but the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to negatively impact the area perhaps more than any other UK-wide.

“Key aviation and travel sectors were first to take an immediate hit and will likely be the slowest to recover in confidence.

“I welcome the swift, unprecedented and significant package of measures taken by Government in providing support to people and businesses nationwide, but it is clear that there is particular, extra action that needs to be taken in support of Crawley’s uniquely adversely affected community.”

The council and MP are calling on the Government to provide business relief aid and public investment resources necessary to make this programme happen. They believe that this tailored programme should comprise:

1.     A major programme of infrastructure funding investment to mitigate falls in economic output, boost economic resilience and ultimately facilitate faster economic recovery

2.     The development of a programme of aviation industry business financial relief and support for Gatwick Airport and on site businesses – a new pillar to the Government-led programme of business support measures

3.     Grant packages direct to companies to enable business to continue to retain jobs, prepare for the uplift and be manufacturing ready

4.     Extend the ‘furlough’ employee salary scheme to help businesses meet rent and other fixed costs, akin to an emerging scheme in Denmark

5.     Invest in suitable and appropriate training and retraining opportunities including higher education, to help the workforce adapt post-crisis

6.     Improve the social security to better support those who are made unemployed in recognition that the high cost of living in the south east means many will not be able to survive if they are forced to rely upon the current benefits system, and that the town’s long history of almost full employment means there is an absence of the community support structures which might otherwise help to mitigate the impact of unemployment.

7.     Invest in R & D Grants to the plethora of manufacturing businesses to retain the capacity for ‘smart’ growth and to facilitate recovery

8.     An overhaul of Local Industrial Strategies in order to focus them on mitigating the local economic impacts of the crisis and a revamp and scaling up of the Towns Fund for Crawley, repackaging it to focus on a greater intensity of government funding investment to deliver greater business resilience

9.     Prioritise Crawley as a Green New Deal growth hub for green technological development and manufacturing, to enable long-term resilience to shocks in the aviation industry and building on the town’s business strengths in advanced engineering, construction and transportation

10. Further targeted support for our high street and retail businesses to help them adapt to the post-crisis economy.
The full letter can be read at https://crawley.gov.uk/emergency/coronavirus-information/businesses-and-employers

Coronavirus

BREAKING NEWS: Coronavirus cases jump 200% in one week across Crawley

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On Monday 14th Sept the new “rule of six” comes into force across England with news breaking today that children under 12 will not be exempt from it.

The new rules mean people are limited to meeting in groups no larger than six people both indoors and outdoors.

The rule ‘could’ potentially be coming slightly too late as new figures for Crawley reveal a 200% jump in recorded cases in just one week.

People need to realise the harm it can do you without putting you directly in hospital

Data from the UK public health bodies shows that in last week (2nd – 8th Sept) there were 15 NEW cases reported in Crawley. This number does not seem a lot but when compared to the week(s) before it shows a dramatic jump.

In only the previous week there were only 5 new cases reported, with 4 separate days reporting no cases at all.

But in the past week this figure jumped with 8 reported in one day alone.

So far the worst single day for reported cases in Crawley was back on the 28th April when 19 cases were reported in a day.

To date, since recording began there have been 502 cases, with 77 of these resulting in death.

As more parts of the UK are also having to deal with stricter lock down restrictions Crawley remains below the national average of cases per 100,000 at 13. The national average is currently 18.

The towns neighbour, Horsham, saw an even greater rise of 360% with 23 cases reported between 2-8 Sept.

Across the UK an additional 3.497 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, an increase of 36% on the same day a week ago, taking the total to 365,174.

A local doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said her and her colleagues were very worried about how too many people were downplaying the risk of infection.

“I hear every day some people talking about how the number of people in hospital through Covid are so low so we shouldn’t worry about the number of cases increasing – but we should. People need to realise the harm it can do you without putting you directly in hospital.”

But questions on how the new rules will be enforced are still not clear with new statements released from the Police that talk about ‘engaging, encouraging and explaining’ before even considering taking any action.

A source close to Sussex Police has told Crawley News 24 that there is both confusion and dismay within the ranks about who and how officers are going to contend with issues of larger groups than allowed meeting up, while juggling the increase of daily issues that are returning since the full lockdown.

Another source said they were awaiting a full outline of what powers the police really will have on Monday (14th Sept) before officers would be given full guidance on what they should do.

Sussex Police told Crawley News 24:

“As we start to see a rise in infections it is vitally important that we all follow the regulations and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

Everyone has a role to play limiting the outbreak by following the regulations, including those about gatherings which will be limited to six people both indoors and outside when the new legislation comes into force on Monday 14 September.

People need to take personal responsibility for their actions, in particular during this heath emergency, and this includes adhering to the latest government guidance.

Sussex Police will continue its approach of engaging, encouraging and explaining the current regulations and only taking enforcement action when necessary. “

Only 1 week after schools reopen, a couple of weeks after a house party alarmed residents in the town, (and Crawley Council confirming they were investigating the event), and new rules coming into force, all eyes will now be set to see just how well the town responds to the new measures and whether the rise is just a ‘blip’ or if it is a sign of a returning rise.

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