This week one correspondent asked if all the work I was doing on national and international issues on the economy was getting in the way of being a good local MP for Wokingham. It was a very strange intervention, as the state of the UK and EU economies are crucial to the living standards of my constituents, the fortunes of local businesses and to the quality of life generally. An MP has no power to decide local planning applications, to re-order local highways, settle local social service provision, fix the level of the Council Tax or allocate places to local schools, all matters of great concern to many constituents. We elect Councillors in Wokingham Borough and West Berkshire to do this for us, and they do not usually appreciate an MP trying to do their job for them by offering them public advice.
MPs are elected to help shape national laws that affect all in every constuency, to challenge the national government on the services it delivers and the taxes it raises, to help governments decide budgets, war and peace, general approach to the NHS, foreign policy and the rest. Most of my constituents understand this distinction between the role of an MP and the role of a Councillor, and keep me very busy with emails and letters on a wide range of national and Parliamentary matters.
This week a couple of cases that matter a lot to constituents illustrate the importance of national economic issues to Wokingham, and show how an MP working on national problems is also working for his constituents on local manifestations of the national problem. A couple of cases have added to my list of those who are either being pushed by their bank to renegotiate their business loans and pay more, or being denied access to commercial mortgage credit which they need for a good purpose.
I have regularly raised the state of the banks with Ministers, in Parliamentary debates and on my website. The government has now accepted the need for a credit easing scheme. My own constituency experience will enable me to return to Ministers next week with requests that more is done, as it is quite clear that Project Merlin and Credit Easing so far have not solved the problems. These were themselves government responses to the points I and other MPs made about the problems in our constituencies. The strength of the UK one member constituency system stems from how an MP has direct constituency experience of what is working and what is not, which can help guide how we spend our time and which causes we campaign on. It gives us live examples to share with Minsiters to back up the case we are making.