The loss of bus services to rural areas around Stockton, and the delay in delivering fast broadband to the villages, will soon be getting attention from a Government Minister after Stockton North’s Labour MP, Alex Cunningham, raised both issues in the House of Commons.
Speaking during questions to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Alex said:
“People in villages such as Stillington, Carlton, Thorpe Thewles and Redmarshall in my constituency have seen their buses reduced to the odd one here and there, or they have gone altogether, as private companies have pulled out because local authorities no longer have the money to subsidise them.”
After going on to ask what measures the Government is taking to connect these areas to the rest of the borough, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responded by offering to meet the Labour MP in person to discuss the problems being faced in detail.
During further questioning later in the session, the Stockton North MP highlighted that many constituents in rural areas of the constituency desperately need faster broadband speeds to run their businesses and create jobs in an area where unemployment is 50 per cent higher than the national average.
With the slow progress on delivering superfast broadband in hard-to-reach areas risking leaving many rural communities without access to crucial twenty-first century services, Alex asked:
“The Under-Secretary referred earlier to planned investment, but rather than have my constituents wait years under current plans will he meet the providers again and tell them to get a move on?”
Current projections estimate that five per cent of households will remain isolated from the superfast network by 2017, stifling development and potentially preventing entire areas from accessing those government services that are switching to online-only. The Minister extended a further offer to meet the Labour MP to discuss the specific issues in Stockton North in greater detail.
Speaking after departmental questions, Alex said:
“It is important that those people living in hard-to-reach rural areas have the same access to important services – both digital and physical – as families and businesses in more urban areas, and that they are not disadvantaged as a result of their location.
“I was therefore pleased to be given the opportunity to discuss how these problems are impacting communities in the Stockton borough with the Under-Secretary of State in person, and look forward to meeting him to consider the specific issues in the near future.”