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Sadness as much revered Ifield Councillor Geraint Thomas dies unexpectedly

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Tributes have been paid after the sudden death of the highly respected Crawley Councillor Geraint Thomas on Wednesday (27th Nov) at his home.

Geraint, who had been an Ifield resident since 1987 and lived in Crawley all his life, had worked in the council since first being elected as a Northgate councillor in 2009.

Previous to this, he had worked as a geography teacher at two Crawley schools, St Wilfrid’s and Hazelwick before he retired after 31 years in 2005.

After his election as Northgate borough councillor in 2009, he was active in the formation of Northgate Matters residents group, helping to organise a meeting with outside speakers from both sides about the possible second runway at Gatwick.

A keen walker and cyclist, he promoted not only the development of cycle paths but also the need to discourage cyclists from using busy public footpaths.

Geraint was active in various committees on the borough council – notably Planning – and was a prominent debater in the council chamber.

A great supporter of West Sussex Library Service he took great exception to the Conservative County Council’s decision to allow the use of Crawley Library premises for ‘Amazon lockers’ given that multinational company’s poor record on paying tax and its employment practices.

Geraint spent some years as a  Community Governor at Northgate Primary School.

Despite his many council and other commitments, Geraint managed to pursue various wider interests such as watching rugby, reading, gardening, cycling, walking and making and listening to music.

In 2013, he was involved in research about the effects of the First World War on people in West Sussex using local newspapers as part of a West Sussex County Council project that culminated in the publication of a book ‘West Sussex: Remembering 1914-18’ edited by Martin Hayes and Emma White.

Geraint was instrumental in moving a beautiful hand-written scroll detailing the men of the village of Lowfield Heath who were killed in World War 1 from the now redundant St Michael and All Angels church in Lowfield Heath to Crawley Museum.

Since 2016, Geraint was the Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability at the Borough Council and worked hard to improve recycling rates and sustainable transport in Crawley.

Natalie Brahma-Pearl, Chief Executive of Crawley Borough Council, said:

“It is with deep sadness that I share with you the passing of Councillor Geraint Thomas, who died on Wednesday at his home. 

“Our thoughts are with Geraint’s wife and family, friends and close council colleagues as they come to terms with this sad news.

“The town has lost someone who was passionate about serving others. From his many years teaching geography in the town, to his 10 years serving his constituents as a councillor in Northgate and Ifield wards and three years as Cabinet member for Environmental Services and Sustainability, Geraint was a passionate advocate for the environment.”

A minute’s silence will observed at the next Full Council meeting on Monday 16 December. The council’s flag will be flown at half-mast on the day of the funeral.

Business

More Crawley jobs at risk at seven local hotels as Premier Inn owner to cut 6,000 jobs

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Crawley and Gatwick have seven Premier Inns, one of the highest number in such a small area anywhere in the country.

Now jobs at each of these sites is at a potential risk as Premier Inn owner Whitbread announced that plans that up to 6,000 jobs could be cut as they try to survive through the Coronavirus.

Whitbread said that it was in consultation with staff and was hopeful that a majority of the cuts would come from voluntary redundancy.

It added that they had taken the decision due to ‘subdued demand’ with some reports suggesting the company had lost three quarters (80%) of its sales in just the first half of the year when they were forced to close.

Whitbread also owns Brewers Fayre which has locations next to many of the Hotels, but it is not clear how many jobs may be at risk proportionally between the two brands.

With so many of their hotels in and around Crawley it is likely that many more jobs will be lost locally leading to more pressure on the local council to help those in financial need.

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