More than half the issues which constituents bring to me are matters decided by the local Council, not by Parliament. In recent years there has been an escalation in representations. People are more likely to write to the Prime Minister about something to be settled in Parliament, and more likely to write to the MP about something to be settled in the Council Chamber.
If the new localism is to work well we need to persuade more voters to engage directly with their Councillors, and more Councillors to have local media personalities and to welcome more correspondence and debate with local voters. That way we can move to a world where turnout is higher in local elections, and more thought and passion is injected into local decision making.
When people write to the local MP about a matter for the Council there are three possible responses. The MP can write back correctly pointing out that he has no power to make the decision, and that interference by him would probably be resented by local officials and Councillors. He could take the matter up with the Council, and act as an intermediary with the Council, sending on their reply when it is available. He could himelf take a view on the matter and end up defending the Council’s decision to the local voters,or in a public dispute with the Council.
None of these responses is ideal, because they all have the same main drawback. The public is not directly engaging with the people with the power to make the decision in question. Localism will require stronger local democracy. Democracy requires dialogue between decision makers and decsion sufferers. Bring it on. It will be healthier than central direction, and better than a system where there are so many layers of government you can never pin down who is to blame.