Sunday, 11 April 2010

Election 2010: Ten Commitments to the Community

Here are my Ten 'Commitments to the Community', in no particular order:

First, I live locally and would commute to Westminster. I live in Claygate with my wife Erika. If elected, I would commute to the House of Commons. I made it clear from the outset that there was no question of me claiming a second home allowance under MP expenses. I am proud to have made my home in this constituency. Already, it has given me a much greater understanding of local issues. I live and breathe community life, talking to local people every day, so I appreciate their concerns – from pot holes to the pressures on school places.

Second, I am committed to local accountability. I was selected to be the Conservative candidate by open primary at Sandown Park on 21 November. The vote was open to all residents – not just Conservative Party members – and it turned out to be one of the largest open primaries held to date. It means I have been accountable to this community right from the start. No other Parliamentary candidate standing here for any other party can say that. In addition, I would vote against any electoral reform that dilutes the direct accountability of your MP to the community.

Third, as your MP I would be committed to transparency. To demonstrate that, I have already published a declaration of financial interests here, so people can see for themselves that I have no conflicts of interest.

Fourth, I would hold regular local surgeries. This would allow anyone, from any part of the constituency, to have direct access to me as their MP, where necessary to address any concern of problem they might have. I believe surgeries are invaluable. They would keep me in touch with ‘bread and butter’ issues affecting local life.

Fifth, I would meet with local councillors on a regular basis. As the Conservative Parliamentary candidate, I have already engaged in regular dialogue with councillors at borough and county level, on issues from school places to the threats to our community hospitals. I would continue regular dialogue as an MP, because it is a great opportunity for two-way feedback. Councillors can keep me up to speed on topical local issues, and I can feedback from the debates and decision-making in Westminster that impact locally.

Sixth, I want to get more younger people involved in politics. I would achieve that by working with the local branch of Conservative Future, teaming up with some of our younger councillors and reaching out to younger sections of our community on issues they care about. For example, on 21 April I am speaking to students at Esher college about civil liberties, an issue of specific interest to them.

Seventh, I will set up a rolling work experience placement in my House of Commons Office for local students. If elected, I intend to advertise a work placement scheme to allow students from local schools and colleges to get some work experience in my House of Commons office. This would allow school-leavers and gap-year students with an interest in politics to get some first-hand experience of work in Parliament.

Eighth, I would champion local democracy. I believe public services – from policing to the NHS – should be far more accountable to local communities, instead of Whitehall. I support foundation trust status for Kingston Hospital and the South East Coast Ambulance Service, which would put locally elected representatives on their governing boards. I am also campaigning for the Treasury to give local councils a greater share of the revenue from business rates - to help us promote local business growth, and give local businesses greater bang for their buck.

Ninth, I would support local community groups. I have visited a wide range of local community organisations - from Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadets (see below) and Lower Green Community Association to Whitely Retirement Village -because I believe the next MP should reach out to every corner of this constituency. Elmbridge has an inspiring array of local groups doing outstanding work in the community. I want to support and promote the tremendous civic spirit we have here.

Tenth, I would fight to preserve our greenbelt. As your MP, I would campaign tirelessly to wrest control over planning policy away from regional and central government, so our local communities have proper control over creeping development - and we can preserve our parks and woodland for future generations.

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