2015 has been another busy year in North Shropshire. I was delighted to be re-elected with an increased majority at the General Election in May and have been working hard ever since to deliver on the pledges I made to my constituents. I have made progress on roads. In a debate in Parliament I had an assurance from the Minister that he will visit Shropshire to discuss the proposed dualling of the A5; my office is busy organising this. Virgin have agreed to look at extending the London rail service to Gobowen and Wrexham and I am fixing a meeting in Oswestry with Network Rail, Arriva and local MPs in January. I continue to work closely with BT and other communications companies to tackle our inadequate mobile and broadband provision locally and look forward to an update from Connecting Shropshire next month.
The wise decision to throw out plans for four wind farms in Montgomeryshire has come as a huge relief for those who would have been affected by this proposal and I am pleased the Government is ending the subsidies to these inefficient, bird chopping eyesores.
The focus for many in 2016 will be the referendum on our membership of the EU. I was clear at the election that I would be campaigning to leave. The EU was always a political project, intending to create a United States of Europe, a far cry from the Single Market that we signed up to. I am delighted therefore that the election of a Conservative majority Government means that we are going to have the chance to decide what our future relationship with our European neighbours should be.
I have been working to help set up Vote Leave over recent months and with the referendum on the horizon, we will be redoubling our efforts to present an optimistic case for a prosperous future outside of the EU. I would encourage anyone who feels similarly to sign up to the campaign.
The economy continues to recover and figures published this week show that the total number of unemployed claimants in the North Shropshire constituency in November 2015 was 688. This represents a rate of 1.3% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64. The total number of claimants is 280 fewer than a year ago. There is still more to be done but I am pleased to learn that vacancies remain high and the prospect of full employment looks tantalisingly achievable.
Finally, I cannot end without mentioning our farmers and food producers, many of whom have had another difficult year. We have a huge number of successful food businesses and I hope that, like me, you will make an extra effort to buy local products at every opportunity.
I wish you all a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.