SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Tasks, team and individuals
A visitor to the House of Commons recently recognised me '“ thirty years after I had agreed to join his school's special needs children for a discussion on road casualty reduction. I hope that the points of that session stayed on in the lives of the students, not just the teacher and the visitor.
We know the number of road deaths has reduced from 5,600 each year to under 1,800. We know that total is still far too high. To come below 1,000 in the next five years, we should expect reduced over-the-limit drink-driving, better road engineering to reduce conflicts and where appropriate safer speeds.
One of my failures was to achieve safe crossing of the A259 between Ferring’s Langbury Lane and the Hangleton Lane up to the South Downs before two pensioners sadly lost their lives when hit by a car driven by an unlicensed driver. There are others local roads where death can be anticipated. When there is obvious risk, there is the opportunity to take action in advance rather than afterwards.
We were successful in putting in the minor measures that reduce the speed of traffic coming eastwards on the A27 towards the Swandean hospital. Also, eventually, speed limiting came to Durrington Hill after years of campaigning. Each was the result of a constituent coming to me for action.
These reflections bring me to thank those who work with me in Worthing West and at Westminster. Working with and for an active MP requires patience, ingenuity and the ability to adjust fast and effectively when parliamentary business and duties alter without notice. A ‘normal’ day can include ten meetings; a day in the constituency can have visits to schools, colleges and medical staff or conversations with council leaders, together with my visits to constituents’ homes for consultations on their problems and issues.
Case work is important to people facing challenges. The pace of life has picked up. When I first served as a parliamentary representative, a third of constituents had no telephone. Communication was by letter. On average, a first meeting could be delayed by a fortnight. Bringing a response from a government department or from a council office took weeks.
Now, my support arrangements take account of modern communication. My team and I work to take on cases throughout the day, answering the concerns of constituents and providing help and guidance in any way we can. I am pleased at the timely manner I am able to respond to those who are in need of assistance and we are grateful to our partners in offices throughout the constituency and West Sussex and in government agencies who often, not always, respond well to constituents, keeping us informed.
My task is to be part of this team whose aim is to serve, improving well-being and reducing avoidable disadvantage and unhappiness when possible.
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