The parliamentary recess has begun, with MPs returning to their constituencies to give their undivided attention to local issues. It is a good time for trustees aiming to hone their local MP-engagement skills before Parliament resumes in October.
We launched our own MP toolkit earlier this month. I hope this first of two pieces on its contents proves useful for local charities and trustees.
MPs have to care about decisions that affect their local communities - these are the concerns and priorities that get them elected. So we try to be proactive in letting MPs know about commission decisions affecting their constituencies. Trustees could save themselves a lot of hassle by doing the same. For example, if you are thinking of selling some of your land to a developer or ending a particular service and you've done your homework, you've probably got good reasons for doing so that are in the interests of your beneficiaries. Contacting your MP to tell him or her why you're taking this action is much better than waiting for a constituent to complain to the MP or, worse, getting up a petition that hits the local press.
This might also be a good time for charities with similar purposes and residing in the same constituency to coordinate local campaigns, initiatives or projects. Knowing that a number of charities and constituency supporters are behind a particular issue can only drive it up an MP's agenda.
And never underestimate the importance of face-to-face contact. Our toolkit stresses the importance of offering to meet MPs to discuss any concerns they may have. Not only is this a good way of reassuring them, but it can also be an extremely effective way of recruiting a useful supporter.