A HAMPSHIRE politician bidding to become Southampton Itchen MP says he will hold referendums with residents if he becomes an MP.

Conservative Royston Smith says that if he is elected in the General Election next May he will test public opinion on big issues by holding mini-referendums.

But his Labour opponent for the seat, Rowenna Davis, says the cash spent on referenda would be better spent on services in the city.

Cllr Smith, currently leader of the Conservative opposition at Southampton City Council, says the polls would not be binding but could influence new policies as well as providing residents with more involvement in political decisions.

He says issues such as hospital ward closures, overseas intervention or equal marriage are examples of where local referendums could help guide MPs.

Social media, local media like the Daily Echo and website-based voting would play a part in the polls.

He said: “If you seek to represent people then the best way to demonstrate that is to involve them.

“As a local Southampton man I understand this area, I understand the frustrations of people, many of whom I have known for most of my life. They routinely ask me, ‘what’s the point in voting?’.

“This idea seeks to address the feeling that voting and politics are pointless. If we are all given the opportunity to take part we must surely feel more engaged.”

“I will not be tied by the outcome of the referendums but those that take part will remember come election time which way I voted and which way they wanted me to vote.

“I will ensure everyone who takes part is told how I voted in the specific debate.

“They will then be able to use that information to make future voting decisions. It is simple and honest and really helps to bring decision making closer to the people.”

But Ms Davis said: “Listening to the views of local people and creating questionnaires and online polls is what every good MP should do. John Denham has been doing that for years.

“However, if Cllr Smith is going to introduce full-scale local referenda, then he should tell us who’s going to pay for it.

“The city council estimates it would cost Southampton residents over £20,000 for one referendum alone. Wouldn't that be better spent on schools, roads and health care?

“We already have polls showing how much people hated the tripling of tuition fees and £1 billion wasted on an unnecessary upheaval of the NHS.

“Cllr Smith didn’t stick up for Southampton against his party when he saw those figures, so I don’t see why wasting public money on more polls would make him change.”

But Cllr Smith says the cost would be “minimal”, as the polls would mainly be conducted electronically through media forms such as email, web and text.