Crawley wards have the highest – and the lowest voter turnouts

With Labour gaining four seats from the Tories, and UKIP winning thousands of votes, May’s county elections proved once again that Crawley is a place of political contrasts.

What the election also made clear was not only the different ways people vote, but whether they choose to vote at all.

Out of 71 seats up for election Crawley boasted the wards with both the highest turnout and the lowest turnout.

So what is that makes Crawley voting habits so diverse? We spoke to two councillors on either side of the blue-red divide.

Conservative Duncan Crow, whose Tilgate & Furnace Green has a historically highest turnout, said there was something special about his ward.

He explained: “There’s a good community feeling in Tilgate & Furnace Green. People are engaged, perhaps more so than other areas, and like to know their councillors are working for them.

“There was also a contest. In some places if it’s seen as a safe seat and you don’t get any literature from other parties, but here that wasn’t the case.”

As the longest-serving county councillor in Crawley, Cllr Crow is a familiar face, which helps boost his personal vote.
He said: “It inevitably helps that I’m well known and people see me around and about. I try and keep in touch with people, I don’t just appear at election time. People do become familiar over the years.”

While pleased his ward had the highest turnout he still thinks it could be higher.

“I still don’t think 37 per cent is very high”, he said. “It is people’s right if they don’t wish to vote but I think we should be encouraging people to exercise their right.

“You could argue that it’s harder to have justifiable criticism of politicians if you haven’t taken part.”

Meanwhile Labour’s Chris Oxlade, who retained Bewbush & Ifield West, the ward with the lowest turnout in the county, said voters feel County Hall decision-making was not always in Crawley’s best interest.

He said: “There’s a certain amount of apathy that decision making is so far away. When they set up County Hall North that was supposed to be the second hub in West Sussex but that’s just not worked out. There’s been one full council there three years ago but not another since.

“Decision making needs to be made locally not all the way down in Chichester.”

Despite half of the county’s business rates coming from Crawley some feel it does not get its fair share of investment. 
Cllr Oxlade said: “All that money Crawley raises and we don’t get a fair share. You can’t even drive through Manor Royal without damaging your car. You don’t see those kind of potholes in Chichester’s business district.

“It’s about making sure people know their vote makes a difference.”