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Fortnightly bin collection, cutting support to community & increasing fees proposed as Crawley Council tries to fill £1.2m shortfall

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There was always going to be a shortfall. Despite receiving £1.4m from the government, Crawley Council say the coronavirus pandemic has had such a huge impact on the town that there is now a huge shortfall of £1.2m.

Even more worryingly this gap is expected to grow to £1.7m within a year.

The council says with the closure of attractions, leisure facilities and even car parks, their income has diminished and combined with an increase in expenditure for the towns most vulnerable residents it has widened the gap further.

Now the council is having to take action and they openly admit that it is ‘highly’ likely that council services will have to be reduced.

According to the council they have already managed to save £500,000 internally and that was without the need to reduce or even remove any services.

But with such a large gap still to fill now they are proposing drastic action.

In a statement the council says they are proposing:

·       Reviewing waste services, potentially moving from weekly to fortnightly rubbish collections and considering the introduction of a weekly food waste collection. This would increase our recycling rate, helping the council move towards our aim of being carbon neutral by 2050 and saving taxpayers’ money

·       Post-Covid, reviewing the support the council gives to the community and the voluntary sector. We currently spend more in this area than other districts and borough councils in West Sussex

·       Closing or reducing the operating hours of public toilets

·       Reviewing adventure play, moving to a more flexible model of delivery

·       Reviewing the number, type and specification of cricket squares, bowling greens and croquet lawns

·       Where appropriate, pricing our fees and charges accordingly so that costs are covered.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council, said:

“For the last six years, Crawley Borough Council has bucked the trend. Despite huge cuts to local government funding, every year we have managed to generate enough new revenue to make up for the cuts without having to put council tax up above inflation. Due to the pandemic, that is no longer possible.

“Throughout the lockdown, the money-making parts of the council were forced to shut, while various new costs arose. Unfortunately, the financial consequences will last long beyond this one year, with the economic impact resulting in a significant ongoing cut to the council’s income from business rates and council tax.

“As a result, for the first time since I became Council Leader we are having to make real cuts to balance the budget. We will do everything we can to make savings humanely and minimise the impact on frontline services, but there will be real consequences for service delivery.”

The council is asking for residents views on the proposed savings in their four-week consultation.

Visit crawley.gov.uk/consultation to have your say.

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Crawley vows to keep children fed as towns council looks to continue support over Christmas

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The extent of the backlash from Crawley residents to the recent voting down of a motion to keep school children fed over the half term has been both vocal and wide spread.

Their governments response appears to have completely missed the publics feeling at this disastrous time with a pandemic obliterating the life we all knew only months ago.

But Crawley has decided it will not just stand by and allow anyone to suffer.

Restaurants, charities and even social media groups across the town have pledged to do whatever they can to support children who are in need of support and who could possible go hungry without help.

Two examples of restaurants helping are The Master Fryer in Pound Hill and La Rusta in the town centre.

Master Fryer in Pound Hill is providing sausage and chips to every pupil in need.

The Master Fryer on Pound Hill Parade is one of the towns restaurants helping out.

They have pledged to feed very single school child in need next week with a sausage and chips. From Monday 26th and for the rest of the half term any school child who is in need of meal can turn up without fear or judgement to received their meal.

Owners Peter Huzzey & Barry Swan made the decision after hearing the motion had been voted down.

Peter Huzzey said:

“We saw that the government had voted down extending school meals, so we wanted to step up and do something about it.

I know a lot of people are struggling at the moment and we want to help out as much as we can and we are really pleased that we can do something, we just hope we don’t run out of sausages”

La Rusta packed Lunch

La Rusta in the town centre is providing packed lunches consisting of ham or cheese sandwich with fresh fruit and drink Monday 26th to Friday 30th October.

One of the towns well known social media pages, Spotted Crawley on facebook has already started a voucher scheme where followers can donate money for voucher cards allowing families to then be able to buy food.

Owner Dan said:

“After hearing of the vote on Wednesday, and the reaction which followed, it was clear that there would be a need out there this half term. The response to our appeal has been overwhelming and we’ve provided 64 vouchers to families so far. With the support of local businesses and the public of Crawley, no child will go hungry this half term”

But many more are also involved including charities and even individuals with one Crawley mum spending the whole weekend cooking and baking meals ready to hand them out next week.

And residents and businesses are reminded they can also donate to local groups such as The Easter Team, Open House and Giving Back Crawley, who run local foodbanks.

Official figures say that over 2,500 children across the town qualify for free school meals although it is thought the figure is now much higher now following jobs losses due to Covid-19.

But whilst the towns support is welcome there is an even larger problem only two months away, something the towns council leader wants to be able to do something about.

Crawley Council Leader Peter Lamb said that he and his colleagues had been working none-stop to try to solve the problem over half term, but with only a couple of days notice it was proving almost impossible.

Mr Lamb added that the show of support from the Crawley community was heart warming but that the council had to do more and promised they were ‘preparing to ensure no child goes hungry over Christmas’.

But Mr Lamb added that the money required to be able to do this just did not exist and that help from the community would be required to make it happen.

Mr Lamb said:

“The reality is that local authority finances have been decimated by COVID-19 and both local councils are having to make big cuts in order to keep running, meaning we will need the crowdfunding from the local community to help finance these meals and we hope to be able to use a pot of dedicated funding Crawley BC can access to provide a level of match-funding.

I would certainly hope that large local businesses who have recently made many local parents redundant might consider what support they can afford to provide.”

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