MPs gauge constituency issues from a number of sources. In my case it is firstly because I am and have been since before I was elected, a resident in Mole Valley.
Other sources include letters and emails although these predominantly asking for help. The very best way is from doorknocking which I and my team do throughout the year but obviously step up over General and Local Elections.
The biggest national issue on the doorstep has to be the UK Economy. The Conservative lead government has pulled us out of the mire caused by the previous Labour government. We now have the fastest growing economy of Western nations including United States. The deficit has been halved and we plan to remove the deficit so as to move into profit by 2020. 2 million private sector jobs have been created and we plan for 2 million more along with another 3 million apprenticeships. A good economy means we can afford the extra NHS funding where we have promised inflation plus £8 billion extra annually by 2020.
This is especially important to me in Mole Valley as when I arrived here the then labour government was threatening to shut or move the Royal Hospital at Guildford, Epsom hospital and East Surrey hospital in Redhill. By working with other Conservative MPs associated with these hospitals all have been saved. I still have concerns for Epsom hospital although the Conservative Secretary of State for Health has guaranteed the hospital for another five years at the very least under a Conservative Government. All three hospitals have had a dramatic increase in the numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives as well as quality and volume of services provided. Under a Conservative government the NHS would receive inflation plus increases culminating in an extra inflation plus £8 billion per year by 2020.
The biggest local issue with a national aspect for the Guildford end of my constituency has been the GBC Draft (draft) Local Plan the appalling potential raid on the green belt. This inspired me to enlist the help of Eric Pickles, the Conservative Secretary of State to strengthen protection for the green belt. Under the Conservative regulations green belt land can only be used for development under exceptional circumstances. This caused GBC to withdraw the plan the total reconsideration.
In the meantime Howard of Effingham School along with Berkeley Homes have submitted an application to rebuild the school on a green belt site partially funded by just short of 300 homes on the present site. After a full assessment which must include input from a number of organisations the Planning Committee at GBC will have to make a decision. It will be difficult as the applicants will have to prove “special circumstances” probably based on need for school places. This will require an assessment and a full response from Surrey County Council Education Department in spite of the fact that the Howard is an Academy School. Local pressure in Effingham is against the increase in housing. In contrast residents, particularly those with children, in Bookham and the Horsleys are in favour of the enlarged new school.
When a local government leader and later as a local government Minister I always opposed MPs being involved in the decision until the application was approved and in a case like this then referred to the Minister. If the application is refused at committee and an appeal may be lodged with the Minister. This is the point that an MP needs to assess the full case, with the information that will have by then been available to the Planning Committee so as to take a position for the inquiry. Although the residents of Bookham and the Horsleys may be in favour, under a Conservative Government the hurdle of “special circumstances” is a high.