Every MP receives a large number of letters, emails and telephone messages from constituents each day, on a very wide variety of topics. But I have found a significant proportion of my mailbag is from constituents raising concerns about local issues, many of which are within the orbit of Shropshire Council.
This is perhaps not so surprising when we stop to consider the powers and range of activity run from Shirehall - everything from roads to adult social care, bin collections, and planning are determined on a local level, with many schools still under council care.
I mention this as voters in Shropshire will shortly be asked to elect their local representatives. On 4th May, we have countywide elections to Shropshire Council, but also to town and parish councils (if there are sufficient candidates). Those we elect will have an important say over issues which affect all of us.
So over the coming month, I will be encouraging people to express their democratic right to vote, or to consider standing to help represent their community.
County council elections are usually contested by candidates who are backed by political parties, and I will be joining some excellent candidates campaigning across South Shropshire. But the cut and thrust of party politics isn’t for everyone, so I have also been encouraging those who feel they could represent their community when important decisions are being taken, to stand for town or parish council.
As more responsibilities are devolved from Shirehall to town and parish level, our local councillors will play an increasingly important role in maintaining local services. So I hope we will see as broad a range of candidates as possible, to give local residents choice in who represents them.
For those interested in standing, nomination packs can be requested from the Electoral Services team at Shropshire Council via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 0345 678 9015. Completed nomination forms must be submitted by 4pm on Tuesday 4th April 2017.
But clearly, not all will have the time or energy to stand for elected roles. Using your vote to back your preferred candidate can make a difference. If you are intending to vote in these upcoming elections, with the new system of individual voter registration, it is important to ensure you are on the register ahead of the deadline of 13th April 2017. You can do this online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
When more people feel able to stand for election, or use their vote, our democracy becomes more inclusive and representative. So whatever our political beliefs, we should encourage as much participation in local councils as we can.