There are now two very important consultation documents out, to enable residents to have their say on huge changes, being proposed by West Sussex County Council.
The first is on the proposed expansion and building of primary and secondary schools, in our area. A vital service for our young people and one that is of special interest to parents with school age children struggling to get a school place, or juggling between overcrowded schools.
The second document is entitled, ‘What matters to you?’, and deals with the proposal to cut a further £120 million off the county’s budget, over the next four years, on top of the £120 million already cut from the last four year’s budgets. The effects of those cuts are already being experienced, in the reductions in the fire service, the removal and decimation of youth services and in myriad ways, in frontline services, which affect all of our residents.
This is due to an increasing need for services, a reducing grant from central government and a leadership at Chichester, who can’t and won’t see any alternative to selling off, privatising and commissioning out, the vital services our residents rely on, at all stages of their lives.
In this document you are invited to tick boxes, stating what services are most important to you, make further comments on the future of West Sussex and agree, or disagree with raising council tax, to fund vital services, such as fire and rescue, day centres for the elderly, education, roads and transport, etc.
Personally, I found it very difficult to choose ‘most important’ and ‘least important’ to me, or selecting the ‘top five’, on the form, as to me, every one of the services, currently provided by the county council, has a massive effect on someone’s life experience, if withdrawn, or reduced, somewhere in the county. I ended up ticking every box!
No one wants to see council tax increased, but a small increase from all of us, makes an enormous difference to the services that can be provided. Thirty pence extra per week produces £7 million for the county to spend.
This consultation exercise ends on 9th October and the education one ends on 14th October. I would strongly urge all of our residents to get involved and fill in the surveys, on line, on the West Sussex website, or with a ‘freepost’ paper copy, now available from libraries and children’s centres. Already the council are saying that they are not hearing from younger people, or especially from residents in the north of the county.
I know that the county council, in Chichester, seems pretty remote from Crawley, but it is our money they are spending (a billion pounds a year) and if we don’t have a say, then the county council will have been given free range to make any decisions it likes, not necessarily in the interest of Crawley residents. The Labour group at county may be small, six members, but we are the only effective opposition there and we need your support, in securing the best deal we can for Crawley, now and in the future.
Sue Mullins, West Sussex County Council (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East)