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Constituency office issues

There will be a debate about how MPs operate during this election. Because both of the candidates that can win have been MP for the same seat it is possible to compare how they operate.

I, for example, ran a weekly advice bureau in the same place every Saturday (apart from bank holidays).  That took 1/2 hours and I saw at a peak 35 people or groups of people.  When people visit the bureau they normally come either on their own or with someone.  It was normally 20-25 groups.   That enables identifying what their issue was about and potentially enough to resolve it.

More complex issues then were given an appointment on Fridays (note that is is a Friday when my labour opponent planned to go to Bristol to promote  her book).

I also used my own finances to ensure that there was a specialist welfare rights advisor.  My office was good at handling such issues, but some require specialist support.  Although I myself have a lot of experience in this area it was a good idea to provide this.   Labour complain that I use my own money to help constituents, but they have funding from the Trade Unions that they could use to do this if they wanted.

Additionally we had some lawyers come in once a week who provided an initial legal consultation.

Hence we had an office which was open 6 days a week.

We did not refuse to deal with things because they fell within the responsibilities of councillors we simply got on with the job.

I did do more than many MPs because I also assisted at times with injustice cases.  For example as a result of paperwork I prepared personally for a criminal appeal (on a Friday in the office) a man in Acocks Green was released from prison.

Constituency casework is an important part of an MPs role because that is how you find out what is going wrong.   It is not sufficient to rely on statistics from government departments.

I have already been attacked by Labour in this election for using funding from the ACA in the 2005-2010 parliament to get funding for additional services for constituents (in an entirely legitimate manner). I explained how that worked in 2009 and did a detailed explanation in 2010 when the source of funds featured in the media.

If the electorate place their trust in me again then I would expect to work in a similar manner.  I personally think it is better to have a bureau in the same place and at the same time each week because then people know where to go.

My labour opponent has a complicated advice bureau rota which you can see on her website here

If I am asked to do the job again I will be interested in the views of people about whether I should keep the structure much the same or have a complicated moving around system. My view is that as long as it is on a good bus route there is no real merit in moving around and it does make things harder for constituents.


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