On 25th May 2016 I sent the following email to nearly 100 constituents "As I was waiting for this morning's Planning Committee to start, which I was to chair in the absence of the normal chair, I received a request from The Sentinel to write a "Personally Speaking" column in a few weeks time. I accepted. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have strong views on many different and varied issues. This is where you come in. I would like you to suggest a topic that is important to you to help me decide what to write about. As far as I am aware it can be on any subject.
I look forward to reading your ideas."
I got several but varied replies and so I decided to include them all and if yours was one then thank you. I hope I have been true to your point and you share my response.
The column that I submitted follows:-
"Back in May I received a short email asking whether I was willing to do this column. Immediately I responded positively. Then it came to dawn on me, what would I write about? I have views on many issues and am involved in many worthy local projects. How could I prioritise? Then I came up with a plan. Contact as many neighbours in my ward as I could to ask for ideas.
People contact councillors with all sorts of issues. Some are immediate local problems such as flytipping, the state of the roads and empty properties but some are larger issues to do with Council or Government policy. What I received shows the range of concerns that people have in an average inner-city ward of Stoke-on-Trent and the growing interest in politics in the area.
The first response I had was “How can we support the re-housing of Syrian refugees – really feel this is a moral obligation and that, as a nation, we forget how privileged we are”. I am pleased that we have supported this in the Council chamber and the process has started with only a few minor issues reported.
Local jobs was another issue raised. I have been vociferous in supporting this. Some have argued that we need more houses and while that is no doubt true, there are plenty of empty properties owned by private landlords in my ward. If we prioritise jobs and there are more jobs than people, wages will rise and people can afford to spend more locally. The whole local economy gains when everyone is in work.
The creeping privatisation of the NHS was also raised. This concerns me greatly. It is hugely inefficient to have an internal market and privatisation which costs an extra £4.5bn pa to the NHS. I am really pleased that the Labour Party has made it clear that we oppose the role of the private sector in our NHS.
Although the replies came in before the referendum result and its aftermath there was already disquiet at the way some Labour MPs were briefing against our popularly elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Since his name first went on the ballot last year I have actively supported Corbyn and share the disquiet.
The situation faced by teenagers came as a detailed response. This has long been an issue. Years ago the County Council ran Youth & Adult Centres in disused schools but these never reached most teenagers. These days most services like this are subject to project bids for funding and although in our area we have been successful on many occasions too often this provides an intermittent provision. This is an issue that must improve and I hope to get together all those interested in the area to try to resolve this long running problem. I was hoping that the City of Sport would have helped but unfortunately it was decided, against my view, to spread the money equally all across the city without prioritising deprived and vulnerable communities.
The final issue that was raised was the need for more parent and child parking places. The point was made was that parents do not necessarily need to be close to supermarket or indeed hospital entrances, they just need sufficient space to get out pushchairs, car seats etc.. Now I think this is a very good point and it came just before the City Council started looking going out to consultation on a new parking standards policy. I asked that this be included and I hope to see it there when the draft policy is published.
The issue that I expected but wasn’t raised was the future of the former Victoria Ground. I have been continually arguing for its redevelopment since my election and recent discussions have been the most encouraging yet. This site has been an eyesore and embarrassment to the City for too long. I now believe that a firm scheme will be put out for public consultation next month. I do hope that I can support it. Respect for its heritage, usable greenspace and access to the River Trent are red lines for me.
These are the complete, random and unedited issues raised by my neighbours in Boothen & Oak Hill and my response to them."
I would welcome your comments on firstname.lastname@example.org