Connectivity

My constituency encompasses Devon County Council, South Hams District Council and Plymouth City Council. I regularly meet with the leaders of these Councils to maintain dialogue with them and hear how government policy is impacting their work as they provide the local services they are responsible for.

Earlier this month, I met with John Hart, the Leader of Devon County Council in Portcullis House in Westminster.

As ever, John came with a list of things he wanted to discuss and bring me up to speed on. The list of issues gives a window into how central government policy impacts the day to day running of a Council and the way they provide services to local people.

We discussed a wide range of topics including Business Rates Retention, the Bus Services Bill, Post-16 travel and the library service. Typically, the issues raised when John and I meet have an impact on my rural constituents, and staying informed about things like the importance of public subsidies for rural bus services ensures I can speak up when appropriate in Parliament.

I'm continuing my fight for the delivery of much needed improvements to the rail service in and out of the South West. You may be aware that I am heavily involved in the Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) which has been tasked with looking at how we improve the vital rail link in and out of Devon and Cornwall. A 20-year plan is being developed and is due to be delivered to Ministers in November this year.

What has become increasingly clear is that it's not just about shortening journey times. For businesses, and I am sure for leisure travellers too, it's about improving connectivity in terms of phone and Wi-Fi signal strength and consistency. Making the train a realistic mobile office for businesses could provide a more cost-effective and straightforward solution to improving the rail link in the shorter term. Looking in particular at improving this between Taunton and Reading, a serious technology 'not-spot', could significantly raise the game for train travel in the South West.

These changes all require commitment to infrastructure spending. The Autumn Statement, the first under new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, takes place in November. This will be key viewing for those of us fighting for a fair share of funding for the region.

As ever, please do get in touch if you have thoughts or comments on any of the issues I have mentioned.