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Keeping in touch with residents

Letter from Westminster - 16 August 2004

Ever since I was elected MP for Bristol South, I have made a point of arranging regular advice surgeries to give my constituents the opportunity to talk to me about issues of concern. By meeting residents in this way, I hope that I can help to alleviate the problems some people are forced to experience. I strongly believe, also, that such regular face-to-face contact helps to make me a better MP.

I am by no means alone in making such a commitment to my constituents - even Gordon Brown finds the time, in between keeping the economy on an even keel - to hold surgeries. But I know from talking to Ministers from other countries that we are unusual in this regard: we are expected to be more accessible than some of our counterparts abroad, many of whom do not have constituency responsibilities. However much we might try to be accessible, though, there is no getting away from the fact that for every MP there are around 70,000 constituents.

There are various ways to meet this challenge - a few years ago I started to offer surgeries over the phone; more recently I have tried 'street surgeries'. These involve leafleting several streets to say I will be in the area at a particular time, should anyone wish me to visit. The other two hundred or so enquiries I receive from constituents each month come in the form of letters, emails and phone calls, which are dealt with through my office in Bedminster.

So, if there is an issue concering you, why not get in contact? I can be reached in the following ways: PO Box 1002, Bristol, BS99 1WH; 0117 909 0063;

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