A summary of the work I’m doing to bring better broadband to rural communities and to try to tackle fly-tipping and rural crime.
If you live anywhere even vaguely resembling a rural area, like many people in Harwich and North Essex do, chances are you are stuck with a terrible internet connection. The frustration of waiting for a page to open, the loading bar taking an age to fill. These are far too common issues for many of the residents of this constituency. I also suffer from an awful connection speed and I know just how irritating it is. Worse still, these slow speeds damage the rural economy, holding back growth and job creation. This cannot go on.
It doesn’t help when BT says you have “superfast Broadband”!!!
The Essex County Council is supporting the roll-out of superfast services across the County. However, there is only so much they can do, and their efforts are frustrated by two factors:
1. There will almost always be a stronger economic case to focus upgrades on more densely populated areas, to get the most benefit for the money spent. It is cheaper and easier to provide faster connections to towns than villages.
2. The aging telephone system, running on lengthy copper wires which degrade performance, simply cannot provide faster services, even if the connection to the nearest cabinet, or dispersal point, is upgraded. Shy of running expensive fibre cables to each individual house, or installing new cabinets, there is no quick fix.
Pressing the Government to get housing developers to contribute to the installation of rural broadband networks for existing hard-to-reach properties near-by;
Campaigning for the inequality in provision between urban and rural speeds to be addressed; and
Pressing the government to change the targets, so that there is, in law, a 10 mbs broadband minimum ‘universal service obligation’. There is a minimum service obligation for BT to provide you with a telephone line and Royal Mail must deliver letters to your house They should by law have to give you 10 mbs as well.
Rural crime continues to hit farmers and rural communities. Illegal hare coursing, forced entries onto private land by people with caravans, and break-ins are some of the most common crimes in rural areas.
After meeting the local NFU, I gatecrashed a Rural Crime Forum - a meeting between the Essex police and farmers, parish councillors and other interested groups. I then met the Deputy Chief Constable of Essex Police to discuss the strategy employed by the police to tackle these crimes. Rural areas are a challenge for responding officers, but Essex Police have assured me that they will re-focus their effort to respond more effectively to rural crime. This means being pro-active with people who are trying to exploit legal loop holes or the Human Rights Act.
I made clear to the Essex Police that listening and responding is key to tackling crime in rural areas. When farmers or rural dwellings report crimes, the police response must be effective. And the police need to encourage rural people also to be proactive. I received assurances that more public engagement will be a focal point going forward. I will continue to support the police in their efforts to catch these criminals.
At the Rural Crime Forum, I also raised the issue of fly tipping. Dumping rubbish, often rubble and build site waste, in the countryside to avoid the cost of landfill fees is incredibly selfish. It is also a criminal offence. It damages the environment, hits land owners with clear-up costs, and hits the tax payer when the local authority has to arrange for the clean-up on public land.
It is difficult to identify fly-tippers. This limits what police are actually able to do after waste is dumped. But this is another problem which is improved with better community engagement. If someone sees a vehicle dumping waste illegally, a report to the police with identifying information of the vehicle can be key to catching the responsible person or business.
I made clear to the police that, despite the difficulties identifying perpetrators, fly-tipping is a crime and must be treated as such. I have offered my every support in holding these selfish individuals to account and, if I am re-elected, I will continue to offer the police whatever support they feel would help in tackling this issue.
The Conservative Manifesto says:
“We will do more to reduce litter, including by supporting comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling, supporting better packaging, taking new powers to force councils to remove roadside litter and prosecuting offenders.” (p25)