My passion is bringing people and communities together. Since being elected as Metro Mayor in May I have represented a varied area from the world-famous urban centres of Bristol and Bath to vibrant market towns like Midsomer Norton and Chipping Sodbury alongside the most rural areas covering scores of tiny villages and hamlets with some glorious names like Nempnett Thrubwell, Gaunt’s Earthcott and St Catherine.
As Labour Coast and Country members know getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’ in our more remote areas can be a challenge. That is why I’m delighted to have secured over £540 million from the government to enable me to improve transport across the West of England. This is a significant increase in transport funding for the region. But this cash only kicks in from April, and before that we are having to deal with a huge Tory Government cash cut to our buses of two thirds. There are plenty of local Tory MPs shedding crocodile tears about the cuts. Of course in our smaller towns and villages there is an increased risk that cuts to more rural bus services simply mean people get stuck at home without alternatives. It makes me more determined than ever to get a Labour government.
Another area I am focussing on is broadband. Data reveals that nearly one in twenty people across the Chew Valley, Bishop Sutton & East Harptree are unable to receive decent broadband.
In contrast across England as a whole 99.4% of homes and businesses meet the Universal Service Obligation – able to receive 10 Mbps download speed or 1 Mbps upload speed, which Ofcom regards as necessary components of ‘decent broadband’.
There is no doubt that broadband is an essential part of day to day life, and the pandemic has accelerated this, yet the government have quietly dropped their broadband pledge.
Whether it is businesses finding using the latest technology difficult, creating educational setbacks or the inability to stream TV, poor broadband is holding our area back.
That is why as soon as I was elected I commissioned a review into digital connectivity, identifying areas with poor internet coverage and creating a plan for rapid broadband rollout.
We will be discussing this and more at the Labour Coast and Country Conference this weekend. Do join us.