'It’s an egregious act' - Council leader slams Home Secretary's 'insulting' visit to Crawley

The leader of Crawley Borough Council has said it was ‘insulting’ for the Home Secretary to visit the town and not take time to discuss its housing crisis.
James Cleverly was in Crawley on March 21 meeting with police in the High Street – but apparently no one bothered to tell the council. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)James Cleverly was in Crawley on March 21 meeting with police in the High Street – but apparently no one bothered to tell the council. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
James Cleverly was in Crawley on March 21 meeting with police in the High Street – but apparently no one bothered to tell the council. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

James Cleverly was in Crawley on March 21 meeting with police in the High Street – but apparently no one bothered to tell the council.

During a meeting at the town hall on Wednesday (March 27), Michael Jones said: “It is tremendously disappointing – in fact I’d say it’s extraordinarily insulting to the people of Crawley – that in the midst of a housing crisis where councillors have unanimously declared a housing emergency, one of the ministers who is directly accountable for contributing to the pressures on the borough, comes to Crawley on a campaigning visit to make policy announcements on another issue and to promote candidates from his political party standing for forthcoming elections, but fails to engage on what is probably the most serious issue facing the borough currently.

“That’s unacceptable. In fact it’s an egregious act.”

Michael JonesMichael Jones
Michael Jones
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Mr Cleverly joined Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne – whose position is up for re-election in May – to look at the work being carried out to stop the spiking of drinks in the town’s pubs and clubs.

Mr Jones said the council had asked to meet with ministers to discuss the housing crisis several times – requests which had ‘gone completely unanswered’.

He told the meeting that three of the town’s hotels were being used by the Home Office as asylum contingency hotels, with the capacity being intensified in two of them.

Crawley has seen the cost of providing temporary housing increase massively over the past five years.

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In 2018/19, it cost the authority £456,000. In 2023/24, it was £5.7m and accounted for one pound in every three of the council’s budget.

Mr Jones said the number of rooms being utilised by the Home Office was adding to the shortage of overnight accommodation available to the council, meaning people in need of help were being sent out of the borough.

He added: “Any reduction in supply also inevitably raises the price of the remaining rooms within the borough – something we know has had a significant impact on the council’s rising costs this year.

“There have been a number of other asylum contingency hotels closed in other local authority areas like Mole Valley and Reigate & Banstead.

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“That in itself isn’t particularly responsible unless the Home Office is saying it’s to concentrate all the pressures in fewer local authority areas like ours.”

Giving a stark warning about the potential consequences of those pressures, he added: “There would be serious consequences for residents as far as local services and council tax is concerned within the borough if this council is forced, through these pressures, to declare section 114 bankruptcy.

“Unfortunate actions by the Home Office, which make this more likely in whatever way, cannot be over-looked.”

As for Mr Cleverly’s visit, Mr Jones said that being able to discuss things with him might have ‘brought home to him all of these points, which either the Home Office is unaware of or doesn’t care about’.

He added: “Given the secrecy of the visit from the council, sadly I’m beginning to suspect it’s the latter.”

Mr Cleverly was approached for comment.