Welcome to my latest newsletter. Please forward it to anyone else who you think would like to receive it, and they can sign up at my website (www.peterheatonjones.org.uk).
Cabinet Minister Visits North Devon
Bringing the decision-makers to North Devon is one of my top priorities, so I was delighted this week that yet another cabinet minister accepted my invitation to come here. On Wednesday, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, visited Chulmleigh Community College. This school serves a huge swathe of North Devon – an area roughly the size of greater Birmingham in fact – so it’s a vital part of our wider community.
Together with the fantastic team there, I was able to show the Secretary of State how much has been achieved in the school’s transformation. The photo shows us admiring some of the fantastic new classrooms along with headteacher Mike Johnson.
Crucially, we also lobbied the minister on the need to secure funding for phase three of the building project. I was able to have a private meeting with him afterwards, and I'm delighted to say he has agreed to meet the Education Secretary as soon as possible to push our case.
I’ll continue working closely with the team at the school and the wider community of Chulmleigh to make sure we get the funding to finish this fantastic project.
It’s a horrible word, but it’s a catch-all term for one of the biggest challenges facing us in North Devon. Good mobile phone coverage and fast broadband connections are vital for us all, but delivering those things in rural areas can be difficult.
These are matters that fall directly within Sajid Javid’s brief, so I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to press our case. In fact, I hitched a lift in the Minister’s car to make sure he heard the message!
The current government has invested nearly one billion pounds in improving connectivity across the country, and here in North Devon things are getting better. The umbrella organisation called Connecting Devon & Somerset has been working on the project. As I have said before, there are concerns that not enough information is being shared about the progress of the scheme. Sajid Javid assured me that more would be done to put that right.
Incidentally, I understand that a number of North Devon communities where residents believed they couldn’t get broadband coverage, are in fact now able to receive it. Work has been done to connect the local exchanges but without much fanfare. I would urge you to check with BT or your preferred provider to see what the situation is in your area.
On mobile coverage, again there is much more work going on. The government is investing a lot of money to pay for phone masts that are then shared by the individual networks. This makes it viable for them to provide a service in many rural areas where they would otherwise have no incentive to do so. As I said to the Minister, we all pay the same bills, so we should all expect to get a good service. He agrees, and assured me we can see more improvements in future.
Altogether this was an extremely useful visit by the Secretary of State. I am determined to bring the decision-makers here because I don’t think enough has been done to bang the drum for North Devon in recent years. I’ll be organising more high-profile visitors in the coming months.
On the Streets
This has been an incredibly busy week of campaigning. Each evening we have had a large team of people – up to 15 at a time – pounding the streets in our two main towns of Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. We haven’t just been delivering leaflets and telling people what we think. Quite the opposite. The whole purpose of this huge project has been to hear the views of residents. This is one of the main planks of my campaign – I want to do more listening than talking.
We’re still tallying up the totals, but it looks as if we have had nearly one thousand surveys completed, with many more people spoken to informally.
As you know, I try not to be too political in these newsletters, so I’ll just say this. When it came to asking people how they might vote in the next election, we are looking at an extremely interesting result indeed here in North Devon!
Don’t forget you can have your say on any issue by completing the survey on my website or simply getting in touch.
As I write this newsletter, the final result of the Scottish independence referendum has just been declared. More than two million people voted ‘no’ – a margin of victory over the ‘yes’ campaign of ten percentage points.
As I Tweeted in the early hours of this morning, I’m delighted that North Devon is waking up in a Kingdom that is still United.
The Prime Minister has just made a statement, and I echo his sentiments: there will now be more powers devolved to Scotland, but it is absolutely right that we have a fair settlement that applies to all parts of the United Kingdom. We have heard the voice of Scotland - and now the millions of voices of England must not go ignored. The question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question – requires a decisive answer.
I will be pressing for that answer to include more powers for England and specifically for our Southwest region. Scotland has spoken. Now let’s speak up for ourselves.
Keep in touch
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Until next week......
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate