It has been a year since Conservative Karl McCartney was elected as Lincoln MP. We caught up with him to find out about his first 12 months representing the city.
The Lincolnite: You hold regular surgeries where constituents can express their thought on various issues affecting them. What seem to be the most talked about issues at your surgeries?
Karl McCartney: Constituents can come to me with a whole range of issues or problems, usually personal problems, most commonly: housing, immigration, benefits and problems with the Child Support Agency (CSA).
Occasionally, constituents also wish to see me to express their concerns about a particular aspect of government policy such as reform of the Disability Living Allowance or tuition fees.
My regular advice surgeries are a great opportunity to meet constituents and to stay in touch with the real issues affecting the lives of people who live in Lincoln and the surrounding area, and often I also visit constituents or meet up informally with them if an advice surgery appointment is inconvenient. Whilst not all Members of Parliament choose to hold advice surgeries, they are, for me, an integral and very worthwhile part of the job I was elected to do.
The Lincolnite: Your first PMQ about Libyan gold was received with a mixed response by constituents because it was not addressing any Lincoln issues. In hindsight, would you have asked the Prime Minister a different question?
Karl McCartney: I don’t accept the premiss of your question at all, and if you actually look again at the content and substance of my question, I was comparing Libya’s sensible decision to hold onto its gold reserves, with the previous Labour Government’s irresponsible decision to sell Britain’s gold in order to bolster the failing Euro, at a very reduced price.
This is just one aspect of the previous Government’s financial mismanagement that has affected detrimentally the whole country, including my constituents in Lincoln. Moreover, if you look at other questions and issues I have raised in recent weeks in Parliament, they often directly affect the people of Lincoln such as broadband provision in Bracebridge Heath; fuel prices; welfare spending; and Network Rail issues such as the direct link to London and the High Street level crossing.
The Lincolnite: Do you think the Coalition Government cuts to local authorities in Lincoln and Lincolnshire had a positive effect on the city so far?
Karl McCartney: Whilst I accept that councils are being asked to help play their part in tackling the inherited deficit from Labour, I do believe that they have been given a huge amount of spending freedom over their budgets with new powers to ensure that the front-line services people rely on are protected. This Government has performed a difficult balancing act, ensuring that the most vulnerable are shielded from cuts and that taxpayers’ interests are given priority.
Councils will, in many cases, have to re-examine the way they do business, however many councils to date, including the City, County and North Kesteven councils have shown how savings can be made and frontline services for residents protected.
It is my hope that innovative councils can make efficiency savings through sharing back office staff; eliminating waste; cracking down on senior pay and collaborating to spend smarter in order to maintain the key priorities of local residents and protect vital front line services.
The Lincolnite: Almost a year on since the proposal to bring back horse racing on the West Common was withdrawn, what is your involvement with the Lincoln Racecourse Regeneration Company? Do you still consider horse racing has a future in Lincoln?
Karl McCartney: Whilst I accept that horse racing on the West Common will not happen any time soon, I certainly would not necessarily rule it out forever. I will always promote ideas of economic regeneration within the city, for example, by supporting the proposed Magna Carta anniversary exhibition in the Castle and seeking to persuade both the Highways Agency and ministers alike of the potential benefits to Lincoln of erecting more brown tourist signs so that visitors to the county can readily find and access the Cathedral, Castle and our other attractions from the A1 for example.
But back to the horse racing proposal, I am still — and will continue to be — of the belief that horse racing on the West Common would be right for Lincoln and, were it ever to go ahead, would bring much-needed investment into our city, improving the amenity of the West Common, the local economy and showcasing our city and county for tourism and business, improving the bottleneck of the Carholme roundabout and implementing to the West at least ‘Park and Ride/Walk/Sail’ options at long last to improve flows of traffic and decrease traffic congestion for Lincoln.
The Lincolnite: If Lincolnshire County Council could start work immediately on either the East-West Link Road, the Eastern Bypass, or the Park & Ride project, which one would you prioritise?
Karl McCartney: Lincoln’s transport problems and needs are as varied as they are complex. I wholeheartedly support the East-West link, the Eastern Bypass, Park and Ride, as well as looking at initiatives to ease the congestion caused by the High Street level crossing.
Moreover, I feel that Lincoln would greatly benefit from a bicycle scheme similar to that introduced by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and, although the idea is at a very early stage, I have been making enquiries to this end.
I am very clear: as the Member of Parliament for Lincoln, I am convinced that resolving Lincoln’s transport issues is pivotal to our city’s future prosperity and levels of quality of life for its inhabitants. Politics often boils down to difficult choices and whilst my priority is doing all I can to improve Lincoln for those who live, work and visit our city, improving Lincoln’s transport infrastructure will enhance so many of these aspects of city life. I will do all I can to bring about all of these projects and ideas, as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The Lincolnite: What would you consider your biggest achievement as Lincoln MP so far?
Karl McCartney: I feel that there have been a number of campaigns which I was glad to support. For instance, I was delighted by the news that from May 2011 a new Lincoln to London direct rail service will commence, though I will be seeking to persuade East Coast Trains that more direct trains are required than the present one per day in each direction.
I also receive tens, sometimes hundreds, of emails, letters and telephone calls daily from constituents who sometimes have nowhere else to turn to for help. Constituents require help with all sorts of situations: from the state of the footpath along a particular stretch of street; to asking me to make the minister aware of concerns for the welfare of Christians in Iraq. The work of backbench MPs largely goes unnoticed in this respect, but I am very pleased that I am in a position to help people across my constituency and often bring about a positive outcome.