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Crawley Council Leader: ‘if the Government acts now all the pain can be avoided’

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It’s six years since I became Leader of Crawley Council. At the time I thought the challenges we faced were huge. The council’s budget was almost half what it had been when the cuts began, empty shops littered the town centre, and Crawley hadn’t built council housing in large numbers for decades. How on Earth would we keep services going, regenerate the town centre, and ensure the next generation of Crawley residents could afford somewhere to live?

We worked extremely hard and over the following years the council avoided any further cuts by generating new revenue to replace that lost by ongoing Government cuts to Crawley, the town centre became one of very few in the UK whose footfall increased and saw significant private sector investment, and affordable housing was built in Crawley on a scale the not seen in decades.

Then Covid-19 came. We now know that Crawley’s economy will be the hardest hit in the UK by the lockdown, with tens of thousands of jobs at risk, and 15% of the council’s revenue lost in the process. The challenges facing Crawley when I became Leader were tougher than any the town had ever faced before, but they are a paradise compared to what we face today.

Economists have predicted without Government intervention over half of Crawley’s jobs are at risk. That was before BA and Virgin made their announcements. To be clear, that doesn’t just mean aviation, Gatwick’s economic footprint is so big there will not be a single sector untouched by the airport’s decline. Crawley is regularly rated as having the highest level of employment in the UK, we do not even remotely have any experience of what we face once furloughing ends.

Yet, if the Government acts now all the pain can be avoided. Our economy depends upon aviation. The money from aviation flows across our entire local economy. It is a growing sector and one important enough that the Government were prepared to give away billions of pounds of public money for Heathrow to build a third runway. The only reason aviation is struggling now is due to the Government’s restrictions and those the sector will continue to face once the lockdown ends. By spending a fraction on what they would have spent on a third runway propping up aviation they can preserve a nationally important industry, ensure our sub-region remains one of the biggest sources of economic growth and tax revenue for the Government, and in the process safeguard the livelihoods of tens of thousands in our community.

In the long-term this would pay for itself and in the short-term it would ensure our community avoids destitution. I think it’s an open and shut case. I hope the Government agrees.

Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council

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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