There are many ways in which I seek to support the roughly 90,000 constituents whom I represent. When it comes to casework for constituents, I often wish I had a magic wand but I can really only help you with those matters for which Parliament or central government is directly responsible. Good examples of this are:
- Department for Work and Pensions – questions about benefits and pensions
- Home Office – issues with immigration or passports (please see my dedicated passports page)
- Department for Transport – Driving and vehicle licences
- DEFRA – Rural payment schemes or supporting applications for grants.
I support the UK approach of decisions and accountability being taken as close as possible to where the outcome will be most felt. That usually means they are based on the most detailed information and should lead to the best outcomes. So, for example, decisions on non-national highways are made locally by West Sussex County Council whose elected councillors and officers will (like me!) use them to travel around daily. In Education, we have a national exam system and a curriculum which Ministers make decisions on in Whitehall – but the allocation of school places and decisions on transport are made entirely locally (again in this case by West Sussex County Council). It often surprises people how many important matters are decided in local town halls – the UK has a much more devolved and democratic system of government than is often portrayed by the media which tend to over emphasise their coverage of Westminster.
You can find the contact details for your local council representatives by entering your postcode here. If it is a matter dealt with by their authority, they should be willing to help you.
In general, be assured that so long as there is not another elected tier of government or a complaints body that you should have previously tried, I will do my best to help!
What can’t I do?
There are some clear areas I cannot help with. In essence, I have no ability to intervene with legal matters, interfere with court decisions, assist in settling private disputes with neighbours, employers or consumer law matters (such as parking tickets) or provide financial or legal advice.
Members of Parliament can never get involved in operational policing or court decisions. This is a constitutionally an important safeguard and most of us wouldn’t want to live in a country where politicians were able to direct the police or judges how to apply the law in specific individual cases. (This is different from Parliament itself democratically making the laws which is one of its core functions). Anything to do with crime must be raised directly to Sussex Police, or if you are dissatisfied about the Police themselves, then the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex is a separate, democratic elected position which does scrutinise the police force. I can – and regularly do – of course get involved in lobbying to make sure the police deploy their resources to serve the priorities of our rural community but never in a case-specific way or reference to any individual.
Finally, as an MP, I have no jurisdiction whatsoever on individual planning applications or compliance with planning conditions. That’s something which you should engage exclusively with the local planning authority and your District Councillors (you can find your district council from the details on your Council Tax bill). Again, I do try to be as helpful as I can and where an elected community body such as a Parish Council seeks my support on a large scale ‘strategic’ planning proposal then it can be appropriate for me to use my voice on their behalf. National Planning Policy set by central Government does have a big impact locally and I do certainly weigh in very heavily on this subject in Parliament and in private discussions with Ministers.
What do I need when you contact me?
Strict Parliamentary protocols means that Members of Parliament can only deal with issues raised by their own constituents. That means you must include your address whenever you write to me (and apologies but with 88,000 constituents that means not just the first time but every time). Include any relevant details to your case including any reference numbers you may have been given. I and my team work very hard to help process cases and it can be very time consuming if you fail to provide the details needed. In a complex case it can be helpful to describe the outcome you seek.
If you need a matter taken up with the Ombudsman (of which there are in fact several), you can take your case up with them yourself except for the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) who can only take up cases supported by an MP. Please send me your completed Ombudsman form and any background for consideration. I can’t automatically support these but I will be supportive wherever I can.
Finally, if the matter is not something which I am able to take up on your behalf, and if you are unsure who to go to or you have a problem of a more general nature then your nearest Citizens' Advice Bureau will be able to guide you. They receive government and usually local funding too in order to help individuals.
You can also speak to a webchat adviser or access Citizens Advice Help Pages 24 hours a day.
I and my team are here to help you. Many of the matters I deal with are sensitive, emotional and I understand constituents can be in frustrating circumstances. I must ask that your communications are polite and courteous at all times. I have a duty of care to my staff who are professional and employed by me via the parliamentary authorities. They are not themselves elected politicians. Harassment and abuse will not be tolerated in any form and will result in your case file being closed.
Finally, for my staff at least, when we have been able to help resolve a matter to your satisfaction, a note of thanks is always appreciated!