West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock under fire from Barrow parish council for allegedly putting 'ambition' before constituents
PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 April 2016
A Suffolk MP has been severely criticised by a parish council after failing to respond to concerns over a housing policy which it first tried to raise with him nearly two years ago.
Barrow-cum-Denham Parish Council, near Bury St Edmunds, had wanted to discuss fears over the new homes bonus policy – which it has accused the district authority of “hoarding”.
Councillors met with Matt Hancock, West Suffolk MP, in December last year – 19 months after they asked to speak about their concerns.
At the meeting he said he would follow up their questions.
The Government minister has not since responded, despite further prompting last month, said parish chairman Graham Judge.
In a statement, Mr Hancock defended the delay saying: “As an MP I receive hundreds of letters and emails a week and I respond to them as quickly as responsible (sic). I will look into Barrow Parish Council’s case and will ensure that they receive a reply.”
Speaking at the annual parish council meeting last week, Mr Judge said: “In May 2014 we wrote to our MP, Matthew Hancock, to ask for a meeting to discuss our concerns. Disappointingly it took him 19 months, until December 2015, to actually attend a meeting with us, but when we did meet him, he promised to look into the matter for us, and come back to us with a response; we are still waiting.
“I did write to him on March 15 to complain that his failure to provide the promised response was very discourteous.”
On seeing the statement sent to the EADT, Mr Judge added: “Words fail me. I think his ‘I am a busy man’ excuse is frankly pathetic.”
Mr Judge said Mr Hancock’s predecessor Richard Spring, who stood down in 2010, put the current MP’s attitude “to shame”.
“Mr Spring always had the time to respond to concerns – even when he could not help he got back to you promptly,” he said.
The parish council has been asking Mr Hancock for help and clarity around the new homes bonus, which was announced by the Government in 2011 as a way of giving extra money to communities absorbing housing growth.
Despite initial excitement in Barrow, which has seen nearly 100 houses built in recent years with outline planning permission for another 180, the money has not filtered down from St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
The borough allocated the bonus to the strategic budget, which goes into planning and projects.
Ian Houlder, borough councillor for Barrow and portfolio holder for resources, said the way the Government announced the policy caused a lot of confusion.
“I was excited,” he said. “I thought this is fantastic for Barrow and we had a wish list of projects.
“But our finance department was never convinced the money was guaranteed for the full six years and decided to put it into the strategic budget. You do wish that the Government would be more precise with their language.”