Agenda item

Public Question Time

To answerpublicquestionsunder Council Procedure Rule10.The questionsmust be on matterswhich are relevanttothe functionsofthe Council, andshould not includestatements.


One supplementaryquestionfrom thequestioner will be allowed.


Up to 30 minutesisallocatedto PublicQuestionTime.



Questions asked in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 10 were as follows:


Questioner’s Name

Name of Councillor Responding


Mr Hall - (Langley Green)


I wrote to one of my ward Councillors recently and asked them who is responsible for cleaning the streets as I recently hosted some visitors who were appalled to see so many weeds as we walked down the A23. Unfortunately I have not received a reply.  So I would like to know, who is responsible? Why is it looking so shabby and why is nothing being done?  I also have a follow up question concerning the water feature in the town.
























Supplementary Question


Thank you for your answer. However, the rubbish and debris that gathers starts to multiply so it gets to a situation where the actual cost of removing it starts to increase.  Also with regards to grass cutting in Langley Green at times it looks like the Serengeti after the rains.




Councillor Thomas

(Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability)


We can no longer afford to carry out routine weed spraying” – that is a statement from West Sussex County Council (WSCC).  We have certainly noticed throughout the town and on major roads there are weeds growing on the side of the road, whilst the grass verges are pretty well maintained. The weeds are growing up by the kerbsides and beginning to invade the pavements and blocking drains etc.  That is a WSCC responsibility.  As far as litter is concerned, there are two issues to consider; the first is how that litter is generated, if it is by the A23 it is potentially largely generated by people in cars.  We have prosecuted 5 people through fixed penalty notices throwing litter from cars observed by Community Wardens. In terms of the main residential areas of the town, there are about 30 members of staff who pick up litter (they have other tasks are well). Ideally I would like there to be no litter whatsoever, but with the reduction in Government funding I believe we are doing very well maintaining the level of service and I’m proud of the workforce who are enthusiastic and have high standards. We are also thinking innovatively about ways we can keep the town tidy.




Councillor Lamb

(Leader of the Council)


Unfortunately Councillor Brenda Smith a Langley Green Councillor has been in unwell and was in hospital and that is also why she wasn’t here at tonight’s meeting.


Mr Proctor - (Furnace Green)


I would like to ask this council why it is failing in its duty to protect the citizens and visitors to Crawley because of the ongoing and very serious problems we have in our town centre that include members of staff being threatened with firearms and being attacked, as I have been within the last 6 months. It is ridiculous in this town centre and we have a major problem with the homeless community who the council are refusing (in my view) to tackle. I would like to ask the Council why they are not taking up the advice of the Police, the local businesses and the local shops and issuing a Public Space Protection Order.  



Supplementary Question


I have recently been injured whilst undertaking my duties. You may or may not be aware that there was a major criminal investigation and the Police took down a major shoplifting gang which was brilliant. But that has pushed the crimes onto the businesses. There has been over £400,000 worth of stolen goods recovered and this was one Police operation which shows you the scale we are facing. Businesses are threatening to pull out of Crawley, Morrisons are pulling out of Crawley and businesses are threatening to close early because they simply cannot cope with this onslaught. We have beggars at our front doors, we’ve had staff threatened with guns, I’ve been beaten up twice, I’ve been thrown out of the building and these are the sort of the problems we face. Why are you not listening to the businesses, as the local businesses have had enough? Will you agree to meet with the local businesses and hear us?



Councillor Lamb

(Leader of the Council)


We have meetings between the Police and local businesses to discuss what is possible on this. I’m open to considering a Public Space Protection Order but it needs to be justified in how it’s going to work.  The issue we have is these actions are already illegal, but as there are not the Police resources to enforce those laws it does not work.   The Council has come through on its end and we are waiting for the Police to come through on their end.










Councillor Lamb

(Leader of the Council)


I’m also happy to meet with people. I have met with business representatives, but let’s be clear about Morrisons. Morrisons said they were leaving as they were not generating enough revenue. The explanation was the footprint of the building and having the car park underneath was putting people off shopping.  The reason they selected the building was the different business rates payments but that model appears to have proven ineffective.

However that being said, the Council is not a policing body. The Community Wardens do a good job issuing fixed penalty notices, but they are not trying to take down a criminal.  If we want to tackle crime, and it is not surprisingly that crime has gone up at the same time that Police resources have decreased, we need more Police Officers on the streets.  We have been promised more officers, we are yet to see them being deployed. We have not been asked by the Police to implement a PSPO yet.  I am perfectly happy to consider any number of measures. Crawley is one of the few town centres in the country that has actually seen footfall go up and seen an increase in the number of shoppers. But we don’t want people like yourself to be at risk.  I am happy to meet with you and others.


Mr Duke - (Tilgate Parade)


Tilgate Parade shopkeepers have been asked for a 30% increase in their rent backdated to last December. We have spoken only on one occasion to the people that are responsible. Mr Lamb has just pointed out that he is willing to talk to anyone at any time but he has not been willing to talk to us as we have been refused a meeting. I believe now the Council is going to issue us with court orders to pay this increase. I think it’s an incredibly serious matter. I admire the Labour councillors’ attitude to society, helping local people, helping lower-paid people of this country but these figures of 30% increase are quite ridiculous. Most of us cannot afford it and consequently the shops will close. You may be able to get market rent but they won’t be from the type of shops we have.  The local people will suffer. We have appointed a professional to act for us. I strongly suggest that the Council and ourselves should meet to discuss this matter urgently.      



Councillor Lamb

(Leader of the Council


No one has asked to speak to me at any point. I have never refused to speak to anyone as I believe it to be my public duty.  You have met with Councillor Peter Smith already to go through all this. I am happy to meet with you. But let’s be clear, the last time this situation of leases came up it was 23% in 2013 and before that it was 30% in 2008. This is fairly standard for a 5 year evaluation of a lease.  It is true that retail is struggling, but the parades have a high demand for units and we know this because in the town centre, where they do rent evaluations differently, the units are empty and struggling, whereas the parades are full. This process has been in place for over a decade and hasn’t been seen to have a negative impact. I accept that not everyone will be able to pay the set rate. The alternative is that ultimately services are cut. This won’t affect what officers get paid or what I get out of this Council.  The only thing that this affects is Council Tax and the services the Council provides. In 2006 this Council had an income of £26m, today it has an income of about £14m, over the next couple of years we will have another £2m worth of cuts. The reality is that as we do not have the flexibility and cannot put up Council Tax by the amount ultimately needed then services are going to be cut.




In line with the Constitution, the Mayor also rejected another separate question raised by a member of the public, as the question ‘either did not or was not related to matters which were relevant to the functions of the Council,’ or the question related to an individual’s case that would ‘disclose personal information’.