My Week 05/01/2017
A Happy New Year to all my constituents. I can already see that it is going to be another very busy one. A priority for me will be the Southern rail issue, and I spoke personally about this to the Transport Secretary again this week.
Roads will also be a big local issue this year, as Highways England’s proposed routes for the Arundel bypass, and also schemes for Worthing and Lancing, are expected to be unveiled for formal public consultation this summer.
The Chichester routes are already out for consultation. Useful further information about the proposals to upgrade the A27 can be found at http://roads.highways.gov.uk.
Another local infrastructure issue is broadband and mobile phone coverage in the rural areas of West Sussex. Just before Christmas the Government announced a £440 million windfall to help further homes and businesses get superfast broadband.
This follows the Chancellor’s announcement in the Autumn Statement of £1 billion to support the private sector to roll out more full-fibre broadband and trials of 5G mobile networks.
The question is how these schemes will help a rural area like ours where there are either poor or non-existent data services, whether a lack of broadband in communities like Ebernoe or a decent mobile phone signal in places like Storrington.
I will be asking the Government, BT and West Sussex County Council for an update.
School funding will also continue to be an issue. The Government’s proposals for a new fair national Funding Formula were published for consultation just before Christmas, showing the proposed changes for each school.
While most of our secondary schools will benefit, the question is whether by enough to meet rising costs, while it appears that many of our primary schools will lose out.
Planning will remain a big issue. The Government has announced a number of new towns and villages across the country, but the Mayfield proposal is not included because the schemes must be locally led, and Mayfield is an unsustainable scheme which is opposed by every council.
A Government white paper on housing will be published shortly and there will inevitably be further pressure on housing numbers, reflecting rising demand.
I am involved in many other local issues. I am convening a conference on the management of the lower River Arun valley later this month, and am planning a local event on young people’s mental health later this year.
My surgeries will recommence next week, and I look forward to meeting many of my constituents throughout the year.