As 2016 draws to a close and we begin to look forward to 2017, there is much to be celebrated. This time last year, I wrote that it was possible that we would have an enormous decision to make on our membership of the European Union. In June more people voted to leave the European Union than have ever voted for any other issue or party in our country’s history. We can now take back control of our own laws in our own Parliament, our own money and our own borders.
When I was re-elected last year, I promised to continue to prioritise mobile phone coverage, broadband, road, rail and promoting the local economy.
The appalling, deteriorating mobile phone signal is inconvenient at best, life-endangering at worst. I have met Ministers and the Chief Executives of BT and Openreach. I have apparently written more letters to them than any other MP. I have invited the Chief Executive of Openreach, Clive Selley, to North Shropshire early in the New Year to show him just how bad the situation has become, and to work with him on urgent solutions.
I continue to meet with Ministers and operators as the consultations for the West Coast and the Wales and Borders franchises progress. We must have cleaner and more regular trains providing better services.
The Roads Minister visited North Shropshire last May as part of my campaign to dual the A5 and build the Pant/Llanymynech bypass. His successor, John Hayes, is visiting again this spring.
My Oswestry Health Group continues to meet every two months to discuss local health issues. I am exasperated by the dithering of the Future Fit process. It has cost the taxpayer over £2 million and has taken far too long. This month the Shropshire CCGs failed to reach a decision on whether to press ahead with Future Fit. I support the Clinical Commissioning Group’s proposal, where the current A&Es will continue to provide 80 per cent of their current services. In addition to these a brand new Emergency Care Centre will be built so that the most traumatic cases are treated locally. We must bring this sort of emergency care, along with top class clinical specialists, back into the county. I also support the proposals to build similar Urgent Care Centres in Oswestry and Whitchurch.
The economy continues to improve. Inflation remains at 0.8 per cent below the Bank of England’s target. Unemployment in North Shropshire remains historically low as only 1.4 per cent of the economically active population are claiming benefits.
Lastly, I would like to thank our farmers and food producers. Many have had a difficult year and I hope that, like me, you will make an extra effort to buy their products at every opportunity, especially at this time of the year.
I wish you all a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.