Local Politics, National Politics and who should I approach with my query or concern?
South West Hertfordshire
The county of Hertfordshire is divided up into 11 different constituencies, one of which is the South West Hertfordshire. It is currently the third largest constituency in the county containing just over 80,449 voters. 10 out of the 11 constituencies in Hertfordshire are all currently headed by Conservative MP’s with the St Albans constituency being the exception (held by the Liberal Democrats). Since its formation in 1950, South West Hertfordshire has always been Conservative apart from a brief spell in 2019 when David Gauke left the Conservative party and served as an independent MP. He was replaced by the current Conservative MP, Gagan Mohindra, in the General Election of December 2019.
What is a Constituency?
In a political context, a constituency is ‘the specific geographical area that is represented by each MP in the House of Commons’. Residents in a constituency are knows as constituents. The UK is currently divided into 650 different constituencies with 533 of them located in England. Constituencies vary in number and are reviewed by the boundary commission roughly every 5 years. If a change is made to a constituency size, this will be due to changes in population of local government boundaries.
What is an MP?
The initials MP stand for ‘Member of Parliament’. MP’s represent everybody located in the South West Hertfordshire constituency and their concerns. To find out which constituency you are in, go to https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP and type in your postcode to find your MP. The ‘modern’ notion of an MP was codified by the Great Reform Act of 1832 (though prior to this there is a wealth of political history for which further reading is required). The gradual process of expanding the franchise continued until the last Reform Act of 1928 which gave all men and women age 21 and above the vote, regardless of wealth. This was lowered to 18 in 1969. There have been many boundary changes to constituencies during this time. See https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/ for more details on this.
In the 21st Century, with the advent of mass communication and social media, there has been a minor revolution in the role of an MP. However the issues constituents could/should write to their MP about include: tax problems involving HM Revenue and Customs, problems with local hospitals and the NHS, problems with benefits, pensions, national insurance, immigration issues and school closures and grants (but not day to day problems in schools).
What is a council? Which council level should I contact when?
Council is a broad term to describe the various branches of local government. Councils deal with all the other issues that are outside of an MP’s jurisdiction. In England, local government either operates under a one tier system (unitary authorities) where local government is merged into one council or more commonly, a three-tier system (county, district and town/parish councils).
This type of council covers the whole of the county e.g. Hertfordshire County Council. They are responsible for your county’s: education, highways, transport planning, passenger transport, social care, libraries, fire and public safety, waste disposal and strategic planning. You should go to your county council with a broad issue effecting the county as a whole.
Each county is divided into several districts. In the Constituency of South West Hertfordshire for example there are two districts: Three Rivers District Council and Dacorum. They cover a smaller area than county councils and focus on more local services. They may be called borough councils or city councils if the district has borough or city status. Their responsibilities include; housing, leisure and recreation, environmental health, waste collection, recycling, planning applications and local taxation collections.
Town and parish Councils
The final and most local tier of government are town and parish councils e.g. Croxley Green Parish Council or the Sarrat Parish Council. These are responsible for smaller services such as parks, community centres, allotments and war memorials, litter, bus shelters, play areas and play equipment, graffiti, fly posting and dog offences.
Contact details for County and District Councils in South West Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire County Council contact details
- Telephone number – 0300 123 4040
- Email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Rivers District Council contact details
Dacorum District Council contact details
- Telephone number - 01442 228000
- Email address - email@example.com
Examples of constituent concerns
- I have a concern about the UK Government’s response to Coronavirus? We suggest you make your concerns clear to your MP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Our local library is shutting odd days in the week without any explanation as to why? This issue should be raised with the County Council as they are responsible for issues relating to local libraries. For South West Hertfordshire constituents, this would be Hertfordshire County Council.
- The bin men are erratic and keep missing me off their delivery route- who do I complain to? If this is the case than contact your local District Council and the matter up with them. This is because it is your district council who are responsible for household bin collection. This could be the Three Rivers District Council or Dacorum District Council for example.
- My local bus shelter is continuously being graffitied, what should I do? If this is the case, then contact your most local form of council which in most cases will be your Town/Parish Council as they take responsibility for the most local issues e.g. if the bus shelter is in Croxley Green, then you should contact the Croxley Green Parish Council.
*this quick guide was produced by Jack Ridings who undertook work placement in Gagan's office in May 2020. A big thanks to Jack for putting this together.