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Crawley Borough Council Leader answers residents concerns over COVID-19

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Crawley Borough Council Leader Peter Lamb has taken part in an online Q&A with residents across the town.

In a question and answer session on twitter Mr Lamb answered as many questions and concerns from residents. Here are some of those answered:

Q: When will the council announce it is not collecting its percentage share of council tax for facilities no longer available?

A: Covid-19 is pushing our costs up. Non-essential services which have shut down tend to be ones which generate revenue, while most staff are being moved to focus on emergency response. If you’re struggling with council tax help is available: link is here.

Q: When are you going to completely close Tilgate Park? As a resident of Worcester Road, I have witnessed hundreds of idiots walking side by side (family members or not), not obeying 2 metres. Also there now seems to be an increase in idiots now exercising.

A: Crawley’s parks don’t have fences or gates and in several cases have roads and paths running through them. There isn’t any way of physically closing the parks. However, we’re using Community Wardens to disperse crowds where reported.


Q: What is being done to help the people who have been sleeping rough in the town centre?

A: We’re working with Crawley Open House. Overflow shelter accommodation has been set up and where necessary we will requisition hotel rooms. There’s a place for anyone on our streets right now. In the past three days we’ve placed an extra 52 people into temporary accommodation.

Q: Will the council ban evictions for properties for the duration of the crisis?

A: Evictions from council properties have been banned. Where arrears have been accrued due to financial hardship brought about by the crisis we will work with tenants to find a solution.

Q: What can the council do to enable and encourage residents to take exercise while respecting social distancing? Closing parks seems like a disastrous idea.

A: Our Wardens are breaking up crowds where reported, but they can’t be everywhere. We need personal responsibility. 1 person ignoring rules is likely to infect 3 others, 10 iterations later that’s 59,000 people or 1,180 deaths they have caused. Stay at home – save lives.


Q: Is there any update on the business grants being offered by government to assist SMEs?

A: Yes, several different types of financial support are available, for more information go to: www.crawley.gov.uk/pw/Community_and_Neighbourhoods/ProtectingCrawley/Coronavirus/Businessesandemployers/index.htm

Q: Any update on the support network you mentioned last week? Have you had many volunteers?

A: We’ve had quite a few volunteers (although we could always do with more) and are working on identifying all those at risk. We’re now mostly waiting on getting the food supply chain from Government.

Q: Why do Kier Group still have construction workers on the new Town Hall site? The Government have asked for all non critical work to cease. This is not critical work. As the client, why won’t Crawley Council force their contractors to stand down?

A: We’re working on it at the moment. I’m in favour of them shutting down work and we told them to ditch our timetable last week, but under the contract it’s not our decision.

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Southern Rail joins train companies extending free train travel for survivors of domestic abuse

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Govia Thameslink Railway is supporting an extended nationwide initiative to help domestic abuse victims reach refuge accommodation by offering free train travel.

Govia Thameslink Railway’s Chief Operating Officer Steve White said:

“With the numbers of survivors of domestic abuse soaring during the pandemic, charities are expecting a surge in people trying to escape to a refuge when lockdown restrictions relax. Abusers frequently withhold money, which is why the free train travel we offer as an industry is so vitally important for the hundreds of victims making use of this scheme.”

Southern Rail and its parent company Govia Thameslink are joining other train companies in extending free train travel for survivors of domestic abuse until the end of March next year.

The move comes as figures show four survivors a day, on average, have been using the scheme and reports show that abuse has worsened during coronavirus restrictions.  

Charities are bracing themselves for a surge in people fleeing abusive relationships when restrictions are lifted. The extension will help hundreds more people to take the train, for free, to reach a safe refuge.  

Rail to refuge is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid in which train operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation. Since April, train operators have provided free tickets to 836 people, including 210 children. In other words, four survivors have travelled to safety each day on average using the Rail to refuge scheme. 

First introduced by Southeastern in September 2019 and then GWR on its routes in March 2020, all train operators joined the Rail to refuge scheme on 9 April with the original plan to keep it in place for approximately 12 weeks or for the duration of lockdown.  

However, with refuges expecting a spike in demand after the current national restrictions are eased, the scheme is now being extended for the rest of the financial year until the end of March 2021. This means hundreds more survivors will access free travel. 

The number of survivors of domestic abuse asking for help has soared during the pandemic. Women’s Aid reported a 41% increase in users visiting its instant messaging Live Chat site within the first two weeks of lockdown in March and as a result extended its opening hours to 10am – 4pm daily. Respect, which runs the Men’s Advice Line, has increased service hours from 46 to 75 hours weekly to support male victims, after seeing a huge increase in demand since March. 

Refuges expect to see the increase in demand across their services continue in the coming months as domestic abuse is worsening and abusers are using the pandemic as a tool for abuse. A recent Women’s Aid survey shows 61% of survivors living with their abuser reported that abuse worsened from March – June 2020, under tighter coronavirus restrictions.  

Many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse, which restricts their practical ability to escape. Free travel can be a lifeline for people fleeing abuse who may not have access to cash. Two-thirds (63%) of people that booked a journey through Rail to refuge said they would not have travelled if the journey had not been paid for. 

Nicki Norman, acting Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said: 

Women face huge barriers in leaving an abuser. Notonly is it an extremely dangerous time, but many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse, which restricts their practical ability to escape. Women tell us that they simply cannot afford to leave because the perpetrator has controlled their money and they have none of their own. Many women and children escape to a refuge with nothing at all.  

Thanks to the rail industry removing the financial barriers of travel, hundreds of women have left abusive relationships and been able to access safety. It is welcome news that this important initiative is being extended, especially as the COVID 19 pandemic continues to severely impact survivors of domestic abuse.” 

Jacqueline Starr, Chief Operating Officer at the Rail Delivery Group, said: 

“We’re proud to have provided a vital lifeline for almost a thousand people escaping a desperate situation, but there are still too many women, men and children that need help. Our staff are working hard to support the survivors of domestic abuse with free train journeys while keeping the railway running for all the people, communities and local economies that rely on it.” 

Survivors of domestic abuse who would like to access the scheme, or need other support, can get in touch with Women’s Aid through their Live Chat service, open Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 4:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00am – 12:00pm: https://chat.womensaid.org.uk 

If you would like to contribute to help survivors access the lifesaving support they need and help them reach refuge, please make a donation today: www.womensaid.org.uk/rail-to-refuge (link goes live on 23 November 2020, 00.01).

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