Unless members of Parliament are secretly given a magic wand and/or a time machine when they get sworn in, they only have the same 24 hours in the day as anybody else. While an MP can and absolutely should do all in their power to help their constituents, I believe the best way an MP can help is by making it easier for a community to fix its own problems, and/or going upstream and preventing those problems happening in the first place.
An MP shouldn’t aim to be a hero, but rather to support people to be heroes in their own communities.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been to two planning-related meetings in two different towns. What they have in common is frustration at big corporations or big government agencies who are not doing what they should, or interfering where they shouldn’t, accompanied by long delays and apparent bureaucratic stupidity.
Government needs to stop starving local councils
Local councils suffered a £15 billion reduction in their budgets in real terms between 2010 and 2020, equivalent to 60p in every £1. At the same time, inflation, increases to the National Living Wage and rising energy costs added at least £2.4 billion to their costs, so councils are now facing a funding gap of £3.4 billion in 2023/24 and £4.5 billion in 2024/25. Small wonder that some councils are facing bankruptcy, while other struggle to meet the expectations of their residents. Communities need to be empowered, not starved.
The experts on a community are the people who live in it
Local knowledge is crucial, but even more importantly, local people care deeply about their place, and want it to be a good place to live, work, and raise their families. Yet 71% of people feel they have little or no control over local decisions. See the Lib Dem policy paper on Power for People and Communities. Decentralisation of power works.
Empowerment: people are resourceful and smart
I’d like to see a return to people being able to use their own common sense, combined with good old-fashioned collaboration and communication, to figure things out together and find solutions that delivers the greatest good to the greatest number. We know that feeling powerless increases stress levels, while having a sense of agency reduces them. You can’t please everybody all of the time, but when there is a proper process, in which all voices are heard, it’s more likely that the community will support the final decision – less likely when a decision is handed down from a faceless, unaccountable bureaucracy.
Roz at Large
Last Saturday a group of us headed to Mid-Beds to campaign in the by-election triggered by Nadine Dorries’ hissy fit – sorry, I mean, resignation. I’ll be there again tomorrow for polling day. It’s said to be very close, although interestingly I didn’t see a single Conservative poster board.
(Photo: the girl gang with Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper in Mid Beds)
Our new full-time campaign organiser, Poppy Evans, started on Monday, and is going through rigorous training with Josh Charles, our legendary Wiltshire campaign manager. There’s a lot to take on board but Poppy is more than equal to the challenge!
Later on today (I’m writing this on Wednesday because I’m in Mid Beds on Thursday) I’ll be doing a press event with Drinkable Rivers to support their campaign to galvanise citizen scientists, clean up Britain’s rivers and stop the dumping of sewage. (Check the Rivers Trust real-time map to find out when you need to avoid sewage spills near you.)
On Saturday 21st October I’ll be at the Lib Dem dinner in Cheltenham, with deputy leader Daisy Cooper as the guest speaker.
On the afternoon of Sunday 22nd October I’ll be in Kemble for the community gardens fundraiser – very much looking forward to that and hope to see many of you there!
In the meantime, if you live in the Cotswolds you’re likely to see me out and about on a frequent basis. Look out for the yellow hat – and I’ll be under it!
Quote of the Week
“Heroes didn’t leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn’t wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else’s. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.”
– Jodi Picoult
Have a great week!