Westminster Diary - Coalition policy and standing up for local services

Along with 103 new colleagues, I arrived at the House of Commons on 10th May as a new Member of Parliament, in my case representing my home town of Rugby. From that first day we have all faced a series of challenges, including responding to the large numbers of constituency emails and letters, understanding the order paper and successfully navigating our way through the division lobby. However, as the new Parliament progresses, it’s becoming clear to me that one matter that I will have to consider carefully will be balancing my commitments to support the Government’s approach to getting the country’s finances in order on the one hand, and on occasions, the interests of my constituents in Rugby on the other.

Throughout the election campaign I argued strongly that it would be imperative for any new Government to set as a priority tackling the ever increasing budget deficit. The UK is now borrowing £1 in every £4, increasing the national debt by £3 billion a week so I was highly supportive of George Osborne’s budget which set out to get the economy back on track and tackle head on the debt of £22,400 for every man, woman and child in the country. I believe that tackling the deficit now will promote confidence and support recovery. The Government’s plans accept that the priority should be biased towards cutting costs rather than increasing taxes knowing that there is massive waste in Government spending that can be eliminated. At a time when most households have had to count every penny, it is only right that the Government does the same and ensure that all our services offer value for money.

However, as someone who grew up, has lived, raised a family, and run a business in my constituency, I know at first hand how important public services are to all of its residents. That is why recent consultation proposals on changes in a number of services locally are a matter of concern. Last week a decision was taken to close a rural Fire Station; there is a proposal to close our Magistrates Court; similarly to consider the future of a Council managed residential home and also the future of urgent care services at our local Hospital is under review. This is happening at a time when there exist firm proposals for Rugby’s urban area to expand, with the addition of 10,000 new homes over the next fifteen years. I believe that it is the right thing for Rugby to grow economically and as this happens, locally we will need to ensure that there is sufficient support for the public services that have served Rugby so well in the past. In the current economic situation this will often not be easy to reconcile. 

When he launched the spending challenge for people to suggest ideas of how to get more for less from our public services, George Osborne said, ‘We are facing the challenge of a lifetime. After years of Labour waste, there is now simply not enough money to go round’. While this is understood across the country and even on the opposition benches, it will be increasingly important that in Government we remember our pledge to save, while maintaining, frontline services.