Crawley

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After three months of lockdown, hair salons, attractions and pubs are open.
The hospitality and leisure sector has been shut since mid-March, but social distancing measures are still in force.

Emergency services and NHS brace for high demand as restrictions ease

Public services across Sussex are preparing for a surge in demand this weekend with the combination of the relaxation of social distancing measures and warmer weather.

Officials at the Sussex Resilience Forum, an umbrella organisation which includes emergency services, health organisations and local authorities, urged people to “stay alert” to Covid-19 and avoid placing strain on the NHS and other public services.

Sussex Resilence Forum logo
Sussex Resilence Forum

The message came after huge numbers of vehicles last week gridlocked roads leading to beaches at Camber Sands near Rye and police were left dealing with large gatherings in Brighton and Hove.

Chair of the Sussex Resilience Forum, Assistant Chief Constable, Dave Miller, said: “Our businesses and communities are understandably welcoming the further easing of restrictions planned.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the additional freedom this will bring but our plea is to do this safely and to avoid placing additional strain on emergency services and the health service that have all worked so hard to prevent the public during this pandemic.

“The fact that the re-opening coincides with the 72nd anniversary of our health service, which has demonstrated its incredible resilience and relentless care throughout this pandemic, makes our message even more important.”

Second councillor quits Labour Party

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

A second Crawley councillor has resigned from the Labour Party – leaving the Conservatives with the most seats on the borough council.

Rory Fiveash, who represents Bewbush and North Broadfield, announced his decision today.

The news comes less than a day after his mother and fellow councillor, Karen Sudan, quit the party following allegations of anti-Semitism.

Mrs Sudan, who represents Northgate and West Green at both West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council, said she decided to leave the party so that she could defend herself against the allegations, which centre around three tweets on her Twitter feed.

She said: “I’m not an anti-Semite. If these three tweets are evidence of it, it’s pathetic.”

Mr Fiveash said he had been "under investigation" by the party for more than a year over three emails he had sent, one of which shared his concerns about the selection process for the 2019 elections. He said that in another email he had made "an ironic reference to mansplaining".

Mr Fiveash said "gossip" had been circulating about the investigation "with many different stories being spun about the nature of it".

He added: “This is the reality of the party’s complaints system – investigations are launched and left to sit for years while good people have their names dragged through the mud locally.”

Mr Fiveash said he had warned the party three months ago that he would quit unless the matter was cleared up but – aside from some initial platitudes – had heard nothing.

He said: “A great amount of time, energy and stress have gone into trying to clear this matter up. I need that energy to work for the people I represent.

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“They are among the most vulnerable in our town and they always pay the highest price in a crisis. “They need and deserve my full attention now. In order to give my best to them I have, with huge reluctance, decided to resign from the Labour Party.”

Meanwhile, Crawley Conservative MP Henry Smith said now was not the time for the local Labour Party to be engaged in "personality politics".

Police 'can't stop people' flocking to coast, PCC says

Huw Oxburgh

Local Democracy Reporter

Police “can’t stop people coming to the coast”, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has said.

Mrs Bourne’s comments came as she answered councillors’ questions at a virtual meeting of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel.

Brighton coastline
BBC

The questions came after police issued dispersal orders to a mass gathering at Hove Lawns last Wednesday.

Those to speak included Crawley Borough councillor Michael Jones (Labour), who said: “The emergency dispersal orders issued in Brighton filled me with very deep concern.

“But we have got a lot of seaside towns in Sussex clearly; Bognor Regis, Littlehampton, Worthing, Lancing, Shoreham beach, Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne, St Leonards, Hastings. The list goes on.

“Not only is there clearly a threat to public health for those going to the beach if they are not socially distancing, but it seems to me to be serious increased risks for residents of those towns as well.

In response, Mrs Bourne said: “You raised some really important points and I don’t think any of us disagree with your concerns around our residents and our coastal areas.

“We have got over 100 miles of coastline in Sussex and, with the best will in the world, police can’t stop people coming to the coast.

“All along the police response to this – as we have eased out of lockdown – was the Four E approach. It was to engage with the public, to explain to them why we are doing the social distancing and to encourage them to go home and only to use enforcement as a last measure, as you would expect.

“I think actually Sussex Police has been really good around this and where they have had to issue fixed penalty notices, they have."

Dispersal orders issued across county

Police in Sussex have issued dispersal orders across the county following reports of gatherings and anti-social behaviour.

One of the dispersal orders put in place was at Hove Lawns on Wednesday evening when hundreds of people gathered on the seafront.

Sussex Police said they understood "it has been a difficult time for everyone, particularly young people" but officers warned "the virus is still here" and urged people to help protect others.

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Hotel can no longer house homeless, council says

A rough sleeper on the streets
Getty Images

A Sussex hotel which has housed homeless people during the pandemic will no longer be able to do so as the lockdown eases, a council has said.

Leader of Worthing Borough Council Daniel Humphreys said that as the hospitality industry prepared to reopen on 4 July, the hotel “has been informed by their insurance underwriter that this agreement can no longer continue”.

Mr Humphries said the council was doing everything it could to support those who had been living in the hotel.

However, he called on the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to recognise the costs to councils during lockdown, and said the estimated budgetary loss for Worthing stood at about £1.5m.

He said: “We have been left with a significant hole in our budget and an ongoing problem with those we have housed above and beyond our statutory, and funded duty, which continues to put an even greater strain on council finances.”

Coronavirus: Memorial suggested to honour victims

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

A memorial has been suggested to honour more than 70 people from Crawley, West Sussex, who have died after contracting Covid-19.

Peter Lamb, leader of the borough council, mentioned the idea during his weekly online Q&A. He said: “I’ve had the update that we’ve apparently had 75 deaths in Crawley so far, the majority of those hostel based and a number in care homes.

“That figure has continued to rise despite a general reduction in the number of cases.

“We need to think at the end of all this about some sort of memorial to those who’ve been lost in the pandemic, much as there was back in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.”

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that, from March to May, 73 people in Crawley died after contracting the virus, as well as 13 in Copthorne and Turners Hill and seven in Crawley Down.

In East Grinstead, the death toll stands at 43, while 58 have died in the Horsham area.

Dame Vera Lynn didn't just lift spirits, she also raised money for children with the cerebral palsy

Tim Muffett finds out more about the charity and who it supports

Race circuit to start drive-in movie shows

Goodwood Festival of Speed
Goodwood

Goodwood Motor Circuit in West Sussex is to start drive-in movie screenings, beginning with the racing film Rush.

The drama between motor racing rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda will be the first movie attendees can see from their cars.

Moana, The Incredibles, Cars, Mary Poppins Returns, Zootropolis, Toy Story, The Hunger Games, Knives Out, Moulin Rouge, Star Wars, Dirty Dancing, Reservoir Dogs, Pretty Woman, Fight Club and American Psycho also on the bill.

Secret Cinema will also be putting on pre-screen performances recreating scenes from the movies.

The Duke of Richmond, who owns the Goodwood estate, said: "Our reaction to the current pandemic is to try and do what we're best at - which is bringing people together through shared passions.

"This represents a step towards the new normal, allowing us to help get things going again in a safe and socially distanced way."

The drive-in opens on 5 July.

Thousands of food parcels delivered during pandemic

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Food parcels have been delivered to an estimated 11,500 West Sussex homes each week during the pandemic.

The figure was shared at a meeting of the county council’s cabinet where members were also told that the community hub team was making 20,000 calls per week to vulnerable residents.

There was praise for the work carried out by staff over the past few months.

Duncan Crow, cabinet member for fire and rescue and communities, said: “There has been a lot of really good work going on locally in West Sussex.

"A huge thank you to all the staff across all the departments who have really gone that extra mile.” The hub operates seven days a week, providing advice and information to those in need, especially people who are still shielded.

Mr Crow said: “We’ve been contacting the most vulnerable people who are on the shielded list. “There’s roughly 11,500 households in West Sussex who are receiving a government food parcel every week and we’ve been complementing that service for where the actual requirements have not been met or where additional items have been needed, as well as providing a same-day emergency parcel should that be required.

“With our external phone calls, we’ve been really getting to understand what people’s needs are and picking up if those needs have been changing in any way.”

Whether those phone calls resulted in a quick ‘everything’s OK’ or a more serious appeal for help, leader Paul Marshall said it was critical to keep the contact going.

Council given £3m to plan for local Covid-19 outbreaks

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

West Sussex County Council has been given more than £3m by the government to prepare a plan to respond to any local coronavirus outbreaks.

Known as an outbreak control plan, the work will support the new test and trace service, with West Sussex allocated £3,178,715 from a £35m pot.

Test facility
Getty Images

Chief executive officer Becky Shaw told a meeting of the cabinet that the plan had to be ready by the end of June but the council was still waiting for further guidance from the government.

Ms Shaw said: “We’re working in very close partnership with our borough and district and our NHS colleagues to ensure we build on the existing experience and the plans that we have in the event of an outbreak.”

Anna Raleigh, director of public health, said a ‘very draft’ version of the plan had been shared with the district and borough councils and would also be shared with the NHS and Health Watch.

The plan has a number of themes:

* Identifying outbreaks in care homes and schools

* Finding and managing people and places at high risk of developing Covid-19 Making sure enough local testing in place

* Contact tracing Setting up an outbreak protection board

* Engaging with the community ‘so people feel confident that they understand what the government guidance is around social distancing’.

While the council already has experience of pandemic planning and support in schools and care homes, Ms Raleigh told the meeting they also had to look at businesses and places of worship.

She added: “The vast majority of outbreaks at this point in time are in healthcare settings, particularly hospital settings. So we’re monitoring that and waiting to see what happens and what comes forward.”

Brighton and Hove schools and nurseries to open to more pupils

Sue Nicholson

BBC News

Brighton and Hove City Council has announced that schools and council nurseries can reopen for select year groups in a phased return from next Monday.

Infant and primary schools will be able to take in nursery years, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils.

Primary school pupil at socially distanced desk
Jacob King/PA Wire

Secondary schools have been asked to provide face to face support for students in Year 10 and 12 during the current term.

It had previously said schools should not reopen on 1 June, despite government guidelines, based on advice from the council’s Public Health team that the government’s five tests had not been met locally.

But during a meeting earlier, councillors and senior education officers were told that "necessary measures are now in place, especially around Test and Trace, to mitigate risk".

Alistair Hill, director of Public Health, added: "Control measures for potential outbreaks are also clear."

Time capsule to capture West Sussex's response to Covid-19

A time capsule capturing West Sussex’s response to the coronavirus outbreak is being put together to show future generations.

Residents are being invited to share their lockdown diaries, posters, poems, artwork, objects and videos to go into the capsule.

Organisations and community groups are also being asked to share their experiences, feelings, activities, and it is hoped that key workers will add to the archive, too.

The project is being brought together by the West Sussex Record Office, the Novium Museum in Chichester and Screen Archive South East.

Dr Frank Gray, director of Screen Archive South East, said: “The current crisis is bringing to us immense and unimaginable changes.

"This makes saving documents that chronicle through different media our changing world so important, both for now and for the future.”

To find out more about the project, visit the Record Office blog