• What do you think?

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    11 March 2016

    My latest constituency survey is in full swing. Right across the 550 sq miles of our vast Central Devon constituency a veritable army of volunteers is padding up and down driveways, flipping letter boxes and fending off dogs to deliver 40,000 copies of my quest to find out what you think about some of the biggest issues of the day. To ask you what you care about, what concerns you and for your ideas about how matters local and national might be done better.  I am hugely grateful to all who are helping me – reaching such a massive number of homes over such a formidable area is a huge task and volunteers and generous donations have meant that the whole exercise is not costing the taxpayer a penny. A vast improvement on the days when MPs were given thousands of pounds a year as a communication allowance. So my thanks to my helpers. Some hundreds of responses have already been returned. So what are people feeling? I have asked about our relationship with the EU – should we remain or leave? On that views are currently evenly split. On the benefit cap (whereby the government limits the total amount a couple can receive in benefits to £26,000) a strong majority are in favour of retaining this with only one in a hundred believing the cap should be abolished. Nationally we spend around £160 billion a year on benefits – that’s around 50% more than we spend on the NHS so it is an area of expenditure that can not be ignored. A strong majority are in favour of a 7 day NHS in which cover at weekends is improved. Similarly, a very large proportion of respondents think that we should retain our nuclear deterrent. There is also huge support for a new rail service north of Dartmoor from Exeter through Crediton and Okehampton – an issue on which I have lobbied hard in Westminster and within the constituency having brought the Secretary of State for Transport to walk the tracks with me. There were positive views about the performance of our police with most opting for ‘average to good’ but there are concerns about visibility. For my part, given the budget constraints that the police are facing I am always impressed with how they go about their duties and the fact that crime generally has been falling so significantly. Nationally Migration, the NHS and Benefits feature as significant issues. On local issues, there is much comment on the importance of rural bus services, internet speeds (75% rate their download speeds as ‘average to good’ with 25% dissatisfied with their current service). Also often raised is the vital importance of affordable housing and retaining services at our local hospitals. I would be very interested to hear from you. I will return to some of the key issues raised in this survey in future articles.