Social media and email policy

My approach to social media, and communicating with constituents

I am incredibly proud to be the Member of Parliament for Burnley & Padiham. I represent residents from every corner of our borough including not only the two main towns of Burnley and Padiham, but also our wonderful villages and parishes like Hapton, Worsthorne with Hurstwood, Dunnockshaw & Clowbridge, Cliviger, Briercliffe, Whittlefield, Ightenhill, Rosegrove, Lowerhouse, Gannow, and Habergham Eaves. 

I am keen to hear from, and engage, with as many constituents as possible. I do this through running surveys, holding surgeries - including many ‘pop-up surgeries’ in supermarkets, community centres and more - visiting businesses and charities, and responding to the thousands of emails, letters, phonecalls, casework and policy queries I get every month. Whilst I endeavour to respond to everything as swiftly and personally as possible, unfortunately this is not always possible. 

I also use my official social media channels to promote: 

  • What the Government is doing to help constituents and more broadly 
  • To highlight the work I am doing as the local MP
  • To showcase the brilliant businesses, charities, organisations and people that make our borough such a special place. 

I have created this webpage so that I am as transparent as possible with everyone about how I manage my social media;, other communications like email, phone and face-to-face; and Casework.  

It is important to recognise, as those of us in political life do, that as a Member of Parliament I have a particular political viewpoint which I know not everyone will agree with. But I was elected by a majority on a Conservative manifesto. I also know that others will have their own views and opinions. I respect this. Even if I don’t agree with someone’s views, it is their right to have a different viewpoint to mine and what makes a democracy vibrant. 

 

Social Media

My social media is spread across the main platforms - most notably Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The primary platform used is Facebook, as this is where most residents are active, and is a more community based platform. 

My approach to all social media is designed to ensure that every constituent feels comfortable interacting with me on matters that pertain to me as their Member of Parliament. To that end I ask that contributors are polite and respectful of others, and that comments are relevant to the content of the post.

There are, sadly, some who wish to abuse my social media accounts for their own purposes. I do not believe that this is right and I do not do this to others with different views to myself.

I will also do everything necessary to protect myself, my staff, and others, from abuse, harassment, and other threats. 

My content is curated, and posted, either by me or my team members. I try to respond to comments on Facebook as much as I can, but will rarely engage with people on Twitter (either from comments or Direct Messages). 

Social media is not a good platform to raise casework issues, or matters that need an in-depth response or analysis. Comments are not a substitute for emails and I won’t be able to action as a result of them. More often than not, it is better to put your question or comment into an email to me at antony.higginbotham.mp@parliament.uk

 

The ground rules that I have set for my social media channels are as follows.

  • The primary aim of my social media accounts is to serve constituents in Burnley & Padiham. If you are identified as not living or working in the constituency, you may have your comments ignored, hidden, or removed.
  • Abuse and threats of any kind will not be tolerated – even if you think that the words that you have used are mild or were posted with tongue in cheek. Any comments that my team and/or I feel are not polite or respectful may be hidden or deleted without prior notice and the account that is posting them may be blocked and reported to the social media companies and the to Police. We have a zero-tolerance policy which means that we will report all threats and abuse.
  • Comments that are designed to cause anger, division, abuse or hate will be deleted. Where an individual posts such comments a number of times they mayl be blocked from that social media platform.
  • While I welcome feedback, the comments sections of my social media channels are not to be used by opposition activists, opposition councillors or organisations to post political views that are not compatible with Government policies. As long as they follow the rules that are set by the social media company, they should be able to create their own page or account. Likewise, comments that are intended to deflect or divert attention from the content of the main post may be removed without prior notice, and persistent offenders of this may be blocked. 
  • Spamming is not tolerated. This includes persistent posting of comments across multiple posts or platforms that basically say the same thing or posting an unrelated comment to the original post. These comments will be deleted and the account that is posting them may be blocked without any prior notice.
  • My posts will almost always be on a single topic and will have a single purpose. To make constituents aware of a new Government grant, to tell constituents about a local business, to congratulate a group or a person, etc. Comments that have no relevance to the post may be removed.
  • Advertising of any kind is not permitted and any genuine recommendations of products or services that people make in the comments are the responsibility of the person making the recommendation.
  • Parliamentary processes can be complex and votes that sound simple, may actually have been anything but. However, some people seek to exploit this complexity to say that I have voted for or against something, when the reality is very different. This misrepresenting of my views, and voting record, is unacceptable and always done in order to promote a different political agenda, or a different political party. Those who seek to use my social media platforms to spread such misinformation may have their comment hidden or blocked without prior notice, and may be blocked from the channel. 

 

Email

On a typical day I will receive several hundred emails, on some days I have received in excess of 500 emails.

Every email received by my office is read, considered and then registered for response. The emails I receive can broadly be categorised into four types; 

  • Casework
  • Policy questions,
  • Campaigns
  • Parliamentary and constituency matters.

 

Casework

Casework consists of a wide range of subject matter, which can include extremely urgent cases – evictions, criminal actions, immigration concerns, threats of violence, anti-social behaviour.

Casework is almost always treated as a priority and in a typical day I will receive 50 or more such emails, but sometimes many more. Each case can take as little as 15 minutes to action, but in the most challenging cases, can take many hours and span many months. 

I work with my team to ensure we deal with these as quickly as possible and we try to ensure everyone has received a personal acknowledgement within 5 days, and a substantive response within 3 weeks. Often, the timelines for a substantive response are driven by third parties I need to engage with, rather than my office. 

Please also see the larger ‘Casework Policy’ section below.

 

Policy

Policy emails largely consist of individuals promoting a policy that they want the Government to pursue, or of individuals and organisations expressing their views around a policy area. These emails can consist of a single sentence advising me of their dislike of a particular policy, they can consist of a reasoned and personal consideration of why a policy might need review, or can consist of many pages of challenging opinion on a range of issues.

In a typical day, I will receive around 50 such emails, and on occasion - where particularly issues are in the news - several hundred. There are also a number of constituents who routinely send me policy emails, sometimes I will receive 3 or more from the same person in a week. 

Responses to policy emails take a lower priority than casework, and when a number of very similar policy emails are received these may be responded to by a templated response. However, that template will always be written by me, or written by a member of my team and then reviewed by me. I aim to respond to all policy emails within a month, but during busy periods this will become longer as resources get dedicated to casework and constituent issues. 

 

Campaigns

Campaign emails consist of more than one person writing on the same subject to ask that a particular position, or policy is supported. For example, an organisation wants the Government to do more to support local pubs, or wants the Government to stop E-Scooter trials.

There are almost always coordinated by pressure / campaign groups, and require little thought by an individual who usually clicks a button that says “Email Your MP”. I then receive the text. It is easy to spot these as I receive identical wording each time.

I typically receive around 100 of these emails a day, and on occasion have received several hundred in a day. Responses to campaign emails take a lower priority than casework and policy, and as most campaigns consist of multiple identical, or broadly similar, emails, these will often be responded to with a templated response. As with policy emails, every template will either be written by me, or written by a member of my team and then reviewed by me. I aim to respond to campaign emails within 6 weeks, but during busy periods this will become longer as resources get dedicated to casework and constituent issues. 

 

Parliamentary and constituency matters

My office will also receive emails that deal with my day-to-day parliamentary and constituency work. This might include information about a particular bill, responses from Ministers to queries I have raised, requests for meetings, information from charities, policy groups and APPGs, requests for me to visit a local business or organisation, and a wide range of other communications that my staff and I attend to throughout the day.

I typically receive around 150 of this type of correspondence a day and each would be assigned a priority depending on its nature.

 

Dealing with casework & surgeries

Members of Parliament are elected to the House of Commons to represent the interests and concerns of all the people who live in their constituency, whether they voted for them or not. This involves a large amount of casework. It is up to the individual MP if they choose to take on a particular case or not. There is no legal requirement to do so. However, I take the approach that I will respond to every constituent for casework and will do my best to solve the issues that they have. 

The exception to this is individuals who have been abusive, threatening, or bullying. This behaviour can have occured in person, on-line, by email, or over the phone. In these instances I take the view that I will not engage but will ensure I provide information on other sources of support - such as the Citizens Advice. 

I also hold regular surgery appointments in person, via telephone and online. Whilst most of these are on a more informal ‘drop-in’ basis in places like supermarkets, I do also run appointment only surgeries for those who have private issues to raise with me. Surgeries are intended to provide an opportunity to raise matters or views with me, or to discuss the outline of your problem and to determine if I can help in any way.

If you do need a private appointment, the best way to book is to email antony.higginbotham.mp@parliament.uk. You will need to provide your full name, full postal address which includes door number, street name, city, and postcode, and a preferred telephone number and email address. This is due to a strict parliamentary protocol which means that I can only make representations on behalf of constituents and businesses that are within the area that he has been elected to represent.

If you are contacting me on behalf of another constituent, you will need to make this clear and usually return a form of authority. My team can send a copy of this form to you if you call my office. 

MPs are not able to intervene in any legal proceedings or contract-related issues, such as private disputes with neighbours or employers, nor help to settle family arguments.  Me and my team can signpost individuals to specific support agencies, such as Citizens Advice, Welfare Rights Service, and the national Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service which helps to resolve in-work disputes.