Opinion: ‘I have to do the job the way I think will best help Peterborough’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph:

Sunday, 6th September 2020, 5:18 am
House of Commons Chamber: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Different people have different views on the role of an MP.

This includes MPs themselves.

Ultimately, I have to do the job the way I think will best help Peterborough – and best help you.

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I’m never going to please Labour activists, but I’m still a bit surprised to find them criticising me for highlighting local issues.

They have taken to arguing that these are exclusively matters for the council.

Apparently, I should only worry about national issues.

One Labour councillor even argues, bizarrely, that I shouldn’t do any work in her ward. I represent that part of Peterborough.

This kind of attitude is ridiculous.

My constituents in her ward expect me to do something about their problems, particularly when she does so little herself. Although I have no direct power, I can have influence.

National issues are obviously important.

Scrutinising legislation, raising issues with Ministers and speaking at Westminster is a core part of my job.

But when residents contact me about something local, I am not going to sit back, do nothing and claim it’s all a matter for Peterborough City Council. I try to help.

Everything becomes local at some point.

There is no clear line between national and local issues, even when there are clear responsibilities.

Our council needs national funding for local problems. It needs the right powers and laws, like the ones I am working to get on unauthorised encampments.

Constituents don’t want me to ignore quality-of-life issues like litter or antisocial behaviour. Even an overgrown hedge causes real problems those with impaired vision and limited mobility. I don’t want to run hedge-cutting, but I can send an email to flag a problem.

I have been highlighting the atrocious littering and flytipping in Gladstone Park and Bourges Boulevard. Is that wrong of me? Is it a bad idea to report the drug-taking and rough sleeping in Cobden Street? Or the illegal parties that have caused misery in Eastgate?

I will carry on making these visits, week in, week out. It doesn’t matter how many discourteous messages I get from Labour councillors, demanding I always involve them or stay out of their wards.

Demanding a clean-up or a crack-down may only improve a problem for a brief period. Eliminating a problem in the longer term often requires a multi-agency approach. And it can help to have an MP bringing the council, the police, Cross Keys Housing and other groups together for a specific reason.

I am optimistic about our city’s ability to solve problems. I know I have strong allies and support for this approach from many city councillors and the council’s officers. We will get on with this, regardless of sceptics or carping.

I will go into Labour wards because they are my wards too and belong to residents, not political parties.

Some of those councillors – especially in central Peterborough – take their re-election for granted.

They ought to be worried. Having had their chance to improve local quality of life for their residents, I hope they are judged on their results.

We have a positive Government and a positive MP. We are rebounding from the dreadful times of recent months and I’m excited about Peterborough’s future.