Julian’s October Column
October 17, 2013
With conference season now behind us and Parliament back in session this week, I’m really glad that politicians from all parties are back into full swing with the more serious and important work of governance. As a keen observer of this three-week political ego contest, it is easy to forget that party conferences barely even scratch the surface of most peoples’ consciousness and are only really appealing to political anoraks like myself (or so my wife tells me).
The dominant issue throughout all three Conferences was of course the economy. Despite a slow start, largely due to the Euro-zone imploding, the Government’s plan for economic recovery is now paying dividends. As the Chancellor recently announced “we have turned a corner”. Construction is growing at its fastest rate since 2007, the service sector is at its most valuable since 2006, and manufacturing output is at its highest since 1994, when our economy was growing at 4½% under the last Conservative Government. However, we still have a long way to go to restoring the full health of the British economy.
To that end, it is essential that economic growth is delivered across the country as a whole, not just in London and the South East. In my constituency there are now 664 people looking for work, down from over a thousand when I was first elected in 2010. Whilst this is still 664 too many, it is clear that we are taking the tough decisions in order to bring unemployment down, reduce the deficit, and get people who can work off benefits and back into employment.
When talking to local businesses, I feel assured that confidence in the local economy is on the rise and this is certainly the impression I got when I addressed the Chamber of Commerce last month. Indeed, promoting and improving the local economy is one of my primary motivations as a local MP and despite positive signs in our region, I’m always keen to stress that we must not be complacent. We still clearly have a long way to go if we are to build a solid, secure, and more resilient economy for our future generations.
One important way we can improve local growth is by ensuring we have access to the very latest technological infrastructure. This means securing superfast broadband (or to use the official term Next Generational Access) for everyone, especially for those who live in rural communities. Before the last election high speed broadband was a mere pipedream for many communities surrounding York and yet now, residents in Haxby, Rufforth and Dunnington are all reaping the benefits of this Government’s investment. Upgrades will soon be coming to Elvington and Wheldrake, allowing businesses there to compete in the global race.
The Government aims that by 2015, 90% of households across the country will have access to superfast broadband. Indeed, in York this may well be delivered a year early due to the exceptional teamwork of all those involved in the roll out. It is my fear however, that there may be a widening digital divide between the 90% who will benefit and the remaining 10% of our most rural communities. Having contacted many of my constituents in Askham Bryan and Askham Richard, I know they are only able to achieve relatively slow speeds, and more needs to be done to help them enjoy the same digital experience as other residents across York.
Therefore, in the new Parliamentary session, I will be focusing much of my attention on securing an early release of ‘Phase 2’ funding to extend coverage to 95% of households. I will also be promoting the use of other technologies, like wireless and satellite, in order to ensure that even our most remote communities keep up to speed and can compete on the international stage.
Pictured: Julian officially opening a Superfast Broadband cabinet in Rufforth in May this year.