How Tim Farron and Willie Rennie are helping constituents cope with crisis

Willie Rennie and Tim Farron have seen the areas they represent in Parliament hit by catastrophe and challenging circumstances. In Cumbria, Storm Desmond and its aftermath has caused devastation that will take months to fully sort out. In Scotland, Willie Rennie’s constituents have been hit by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge and the loss of a route that takes 70,000 cars per day. It’s not expected to re-open until the New Year.

Both Willie and Tim do a phenomenal amount of work to stay in touch with the people they represent anyway, but I have been very impressed with the work that both of them are doing to help people affected by these events.

Willie’s Facebook page catalogues all the conversations and correspondence he’s had with the Transport Minister Derek Mackay. He wanted to make sure that he was properly reflecting people’s concerns and put together a survey so that they can tell him what’s going on.  Even before the end of the weekend, he had worked with the Minister to ensure that patients travelling from Fife for Chemo and Radiotherapy in Edinburgh were taken across the Bridge in ambulances rather than have to endure 11 mile tailbacks or take the huge risk of going on public transport, something that can be very dangerous if your immune system is compromised. He’s put a huge effort into keeping people informed. On a smaller scale, when he was MP, his Facebook page was the place here people looked to find out about school closures in that awful Winter of 2009. He is a hands-on representative who uses every method he can to find out what people need. You can see from his Facebook how he is working constructively with the Minister to get stuff done, putting forward his constituents’ suggestions and getting results.

Similarly, Tim Farron has been out and about in his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency, visiting people taking part in the clean-up effort and thinking through practical solutions like an appeal in the Guardian to second home owners to let those affected by the flooding use them until their own homes have been repaired. He wrote:

As I walked round the streets, people who had lost almost everything but had salvaged a kettle and a few teabags were on the streets offering their neighbours a hot drink. It was inspiring to witness such solidarity, and my thanks go to all those whose generosity of spirit made this terrible experience a little more bearable for those around them.

However, while the clean-up operation has started to restore a semblance of normality, getting back to normal is a long-term process. For many people, it will be months before their homes are once more habitable.

It is for this reason that I have appealed to those who own second homes in South Lakeland to show solidarity with flood victims. Many local people have already helped out by offering shelter to flood victims in the immediate aftermath of the floods; however, moving beyond the immediate problem, many of these families are now looking to find temporary properties to live in until their own homes are once more habitable. South Lakeland has the third highest proportion of second homes of any local authority in the country, with thousands of holiday homes in the area. It would be fantastic if second-home owners whose properties would otherwise be sitting empty were willing to make these available to those whose homes have been destroyed. We have already had over a dozen concrete offers of help, while many more have expressed an interest.

You can see Tim here on Monday’s Daily Politics , standing on  Kendal street, talking about the need to build better flood defences – and how effective those he had pushed to get built had been. He’s also been pushing the Government to apply for EU Solidarity funding to help the area. His Facebook page is the go-to place for information about what’s going on.

Assiduity and ingenuity

Normally when a serious event hits a constituency, that MP gets the chance to ask a question at Prime Minister’s Questions. Yesterday, Tim was overlooked by Speaker John Bercow and didn’t get the chance to question George Osborne. He was determined to raise the issue, though, and did so as a Point of Order:

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was questioned on Monday about the availability of funds from the EU solidarity fund to help constituents, such as mine in Cumbria, who are suffering the after-effects of the floods. She was not aware of the fund at the time. Have you since received any representations from Ministers indicating that they wish to make a statement to the House on how the Government can claim funds from the EU solidarity fund to help those constituents?

Perhaps the generosity of the Speaker’s response was an indication that he knew he had been remiss in not calling Tim:

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I well remember the exchange to which he alludes. The short answer is that I have received no indication of any wish on the part of a Minister to make a statement on that matter. However, the hon. Gentleman’s assiduity, and indeed his ingenuity, are as close to legendary as makes no difference. Therefore, if he is dissatisfied in days to come, I have a hunch that he will try to ensure that the matter can be aired, not with me, but with a Minister.

Willie and Tim are always energetic about helping their constituents anyway, but they have really stepped up to support them  when they need it most.  A proactive MP has a good overview of the developing situation and can spot where organisations can work together better when they maybe can’t see it themselves.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I disagree with Willie Rennie on many things, and I do not think he hs the hard edge that is needed to be a party leader, but hos cooperation with the monister and his hard work over the past week deserves unqualified recognition. It would have been all too easy to try to make political capitalmout of the forth road bridge situation, but unlike Laboyr and the Tories Willie Rennie has rolled his sleeves up and got on with it. Coop err ation between parties can work. But Willie has a huge problem in the offing in the guise of the forthcoming election in Scotland nezt May. His SP’s

  • Richard Underhill 12th Dec '15 - 4:06pm

    The floating house works (Channel 4, 8pm 12/12//2015) but the architect who wants to design lots of them would need to find ways of improving value for money. The first such house, on an island in the Thames, is of moderate size, has difficulty of access and a large cost overrun. There is no mention of car parking, there is no mooring for a boat, but the pioneers must be saluted for their achievement.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Dec '15 - 4:09pm

    Now that the concept has been shown to work the land value would be likely to rise against the purchaser / builder / developer, making development less likely.

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