Almost every weekend I hold coffee mornings or street stalls and knock on doors to make sure I’m listening to people’s views across High Peak.
So now I’m pleased to have a week away from London, to spend enjoying the countryside with my children on their school holidays and to speak with people across High Peak, alongside Labour councillors and candidates for the council elections.
High Peak has always been an area where elections swing between the Labour and Conservative Parties.
Most people don’t tend to vote in local elections, but I hope they will in May, because the result will make a real difference.
In supporting constituents across High Peak, I see all too clearly where the policies of High Peak’s current Conservative-run Council affect us all.
Planning is the most important of High Peak’s powers. Whilst the Council is forced by government to plan for 350 houses a year, they also need to insist on new infrastructure and services.
More people need more school places, expanded GP surgeries, better roads and more parking. Developers who make so much money from new houses need to contribute to these facilities but too often our council don’t insist.
And too many of the new homes built are not affordable to local people.
Every week I try and support constituents who are in desperate need. Many of them are homeless – one or two on the street but most sleeping on someone else’s sofa or whole families on the floor.
That’s not right when so many expensive houses are being built and developers are getting away with reducing the 30% of affordable homes they’re meant to provide.
But even where land owned by High Peak Council is sold to developers, our Council is not insisting on it being used for the affordable homes that so many local people are desperate for.
Councils should not be about large companies making money, but about services provided for local people who pay Council Tax for them.
So I’m worried about our leisure centres being transferred to a large company to ‘save’ £280,000. Companies don’t run at a loss so that money will be found from higher charges or reduced facilities or staff.
And climate change has been all but ignored by our Council, with no Electric Vehicle charge points in High Peak, and little support for our local groups who take what action they can.
I hope that we will see a change in a couple of weeks and a Council in High Peak run for local people, not for big business. Who insist on the services, infrastructure and affordable homes that local people need, and support us all to act on climate change.