Big Breakfast Parish Hub
Saturday 15th July saw our summer Big Breakfast event at the Parish Hub, hosting Henry Smith M.P. addressing a packed room which had just been fed one of Julia’s generous cooked breakfasts!
Henry had recently been re-elected to the Crawley constituency and was conscious of the Boundary Commission recommendation which could see Copthorne return to Crawley from Horsham. Henry was able to tell us that such an outcome was by no means a “done deal” due to the current Westminster arithmetic following the election and the lack of appetite for changes by a fair number of Members of the House.
Henry’s presentation touched upon some of the key issues which he is currently engaged in. He told us that the final vote on Airport expansion should occur before Autumn and that he was against Gatwick expansion due to local infrastructure limitations concerning the road and rail network. He believes that the resulting housing demand cannot be satisfied without the area being turned into an out of London Borough and that it is simply impossible to fill the consequential job vacancies from the local employment market, and any influx of travelling labour would result in even more pressure on the rail and road network, much of which is already operating at or near capacity.
He also spoke about the ongoing Southern Rail dispute, a subject he is well versed on as he commutes from Three Bridges each day. He suggested that there are 4 main reasons for the continuing action:
• The Southern Rail network is already operating over capacity being the busiest in the Country and possibly the world.
• The franchise structure has some perverse contractual content.
• There is evidence of union militancy exploiting the situation.
• Management of Southern Rail had not performed well enough.
Henry next moved onto Healthcare and spoke about his acute awareness of the pressures on GP services driven in the main in our locale by population growth.
The “Question Time” session did not want for involvement! It was kicked off with the pothole problem, Henry agreed that more funding support was needed. The merits of proportional representation did not garner Henry’s support however.
Brexit inevitably raised its’ head, Henry voted to leave the EU driven primarily by his discomfort with the federal model evidencing too little accountability amongst too many distant representatives. He remains confident that many of the concerns being expressed would be satisfactorily resolved over the coming months. The WPC Chair expressed concerns regarding the possible boundary change, resulting in the Parish spread across 2 Westminster constituencies, this gained Henry’s attention and understanding.
Even the improvement programme at Queen’s Square, Crawley was given an airing and we learnt that 2 million pounds is being spent on the works. We also discovered that the site is one that is hard to get traction with as the buildings surrounding the square have no single landlord ownership and instead are spread around a number of entities with differing views and priorities.
The youngest members of our group asked the most challenging questions! A table with 2 youngsters on it challenged Henry upon the Public Services pay cap, Henry told the questioner that he recognised people were tired of austerity and in his view the current approach needed to be reviewed. Further questions from the 2 youngsters on the table concerned the level of Public Debt and the Budget deficit and whether the Government had done enough to tackle the position still. The second question asked Henry about what he regarded as his successes whilst he had been in role. Henry gave an explanation on progress regarding the National Debt and displayed considerable humility when talking about his own work.
An engaging Big Breakfast and one which was wholly enjoyable. My thanks go to all who came, of course to Henry, those that cooked and served and to St John’s for supporting this initiative.
Our final Big Breakfast of the 2017 season is on Saturday October 21st again at the Parish Hub. Minesh Patel and colleagues will be there to talk and answer questions regarding local Healthcare provision. Minesh is Chair of the local commissioning group.