My Week 28/07/2016

With a new Prime Minister and ministerial teams it will be important for us in West Sussex to ensure that our concerns get onto political radar screens.

So, straight away, I have been contacting relevant ministers to flag up key local issues.

Last week Sir Nicholas Soames and I, as officers of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Southern, met the new Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, to discuss the urgent need to improve its service.

The new Transport Secretary has confirmed that this is a top priority for him and his team.

Earlier in the week I met the new Housing and Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell, to discuss the importance of respecting neighbourhood plans.

We face continued attempts by developers to subvert these plans before they are finally made in a local referendum and even after that.

There will be a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill in this session of Parliament, and this will be an important opportunity to ensure that our concerns are addressed.

The roads minister, Andrew Jones, remains in place.  I want to ensure that Arundel bypass remains on track.  The funding for this has been committed in the roads programme, and a formal public consultation on route options is expected in Spring next year, with an announcement on the preferred route in the Autumn.

Highways England now state that works will start in 2021 (not Spring 2020 as previously suggested), but with the bypass opening in 2023 (not 2023/24 as previously suggested).

Another important form of local infrastructure is broadband.  I have been leading the charge for BT and Openreach to be split so as to get more competition and investment into superfast broadband, and better service for the public.

This week Ofcom took a step in the right direction by announcing a partial separation, but I think they need to go further.  Closing the digital divide to ensure that all of my constituents have access to good broadband remains a priority for me.

I have joined my fellow West Sussex MPs in writing to the new Education Secretary, Justine Greening, to ask for transitional funding for our schools ahead of the new national funding formula, which will now be introduced in 2018 rather than being phased in.

So, even though Parliament is now in recess the work goes on, and my office will remain open throughout the summer to help my constituents.

Nick Herbert