MP sent 400 letters to council in a year

AN MP has been accused of wasting a council staff's time by “bombarding” them with letters asking for information.John Jowers, leader of Colchester Borough Council, made his comments after it emerged that Colchester MP Bob Russell sent more than 400 letters to the town hall in 2005.

By Roddy Ashworth

AN MP has been accused of wasting a council staff's time by “bombarding” them with letters asking for information.

John Jowers, leader of Colchester Borough Council, made his comments after it emerged that Colchester MP Bob Russell sent more than 400 letters to the town hall in 2005.

Of these around 120 were sent to the council's chief executive, Adrian Pritchard.


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The number of letters sent by Mr Russell compared with 110 sent by Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, to both Tendring District Council and Colchester Borough Council in the same time period.

Between his election in May and the end of 2005 Douglas Carswell, MP for Harwich, has sent 71 letters to Tendring District Council, 54 of which were addressed to John Hawkins, its chief executive.

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And similarly Brooks Newmark, MP for Braintree since May last year, wrote 108 letters to Braintree District Council.

The most common subjects addressed by Mr Newmark were planning and housing matters sent on behalf of constituents.

Of the letters sent to Mr Pritchard by Mr Russell, around 30 were concerned with the St Botolph's Quarter regeneration in Colchester, and the associated development, which Mr Russell has publicly opposed.

On one particular day, September 8 2005, Mr Russell sent three separate short letters to Mr Pritchard on the subject of St Botolph's.

On another occasion Mr Russell asked for details of where the council's executive officers and heads of departments lived.

Mr Russell wanted to know if they lived within the boundaries of Colchester because “they are highly affecting the circa 100,000 people who live in the town” and that the information “would be of interest to Colchester council tax payers”.

In another letter, Mr Russell asked Mr Pritchard about the policy regarding MP's invitations to the town's oyster feast.

He wrote: “I am somewhat puzzled the invitation did not include my wife (which has hitherto been the case and which generally applies when organisations invite me to prestige events) and the inference that I should pay £65 for a ticket.”

In the same letter he acknowledged he would not be going to the event in any case.

One section of correspondence relates to a letter that Mr Russell sent to Mr Pritchard which was subsequently circulated outside the council.

On October 12, Mr Russell sent three letters - two of which were one paragraph long and one of which was four paragraphs long - questioning the council's policies and asking for information about the amount of his previous correspondence that had been forwarded.

These letters were followed by two further letters highlighting his displeasure at the council's policy on forwarding correspondence and asking for further clarifications.

Yesterday Mr Jowers said: “This could be written off as a harmless eccentricity but I think Mr Russell ends up wasting a lot of the council's time and money having senior officers scurrying around trying to answer what are often rather trivial questions.

“I believe he would be better serving the people of Colchester by representing them in Westminster, which is what he was elected to do, rather than bombarding the council with so many letters.

“He does not seem able to recognise the fact he is no longer a member of Colchester Borough Council, but a member of parliament.”

Last night Mr Russell refused to comment.

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