Liberal Democrat campaigners for better broadband have welcomed the news that more money is available for broadband in our rural areas – but warn that it should be used for the right technology.
South Glos Council has announced that a number of villages are likely to benefit from an extra £1.49m for better broadband. Campaigners are concerned that the money will be wasted on solutions that don’t deliver the speed and reliability people and businesses need. At a recent council meeting, Liberal Democrats challenged the Conservatives running the council to get the technology right.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Claire Young said: “Upgrading the local cabinet to fibre won’t help much if your home is connected to that cabinet by a long length of copper wire. Your broadband will still be slow and unreliable. I have called on the Tories running South Glos council to talk to councils that have already delivered future-proof pure-fibre solutions in conjunction with BT Open Reach. If the Superfast Cornwall project can deploy a pure-fibre solution to over 85,000 premises, why can’t that happen in our rural areas?”
She added, “Local campaigners are frustrated that they can’t get more information about how the money is being used. They want to know that tax payers’ money is being spent on technology that will deliver speed, reliability and value-for-money in the long term, not just stop gap measures.”
Cllr Sue Hope, representing Cotswold Edge added: “Good access to broadband is vital for our rural residents and businesses. It’s not just for buying things online, or watching streaming TV – everything like booking a doctor’s appointment, finding out about community events, and tracking what your Councillors and MPs are up to can be done online. Our businesses need to be able to place their own orders, and be available to consumers, to be competitive. Physical presence used to be everything, but now it’s all about being online. Our modern businesses have to be part of the modern economy, and that means being available online, with a high speed connection. We need a long-term solution, and we need it now. A good internet connection isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s essential.”
The Liberal Democrats in Thornbury and Yate have announced that their new Parliamentary Candidate is Councillor Claire Young. A well known local campaigner, she will lead the party's activity across the constituency, replacing Steve Webb who recently announced he would not be continuing in the role. Claire Young was elected following a ballot of members, in a strong field.
Steve Webb said: "I have known and worked closely with Claire for many years and she has been at the centre of all we have been doing with local people. I am delighted to be passing on the baton, to someone who is as energetic and committed to the community as Claire Young. I will be giving her my full support in the urgent work to be done to help our country and community."
Claire Young said: "Steve has been a rock for our community and brought improvements in the lives of so many people locally and nationally. I am humbled by the confidence people have placed in me. Over the years I have met so many lovely people working together for our community I am really looking forward to my changed role in that work. There is a lot to be done, giving people control over their lives, helping those who are struggling to keep their heads above water, finding new ways to avoid the effects of the terrible cuts Tories have been imposing on our community. "
She has already launched her first major campaign, asking people to 'Tell Claire' what they most want done to help them - "it may be a local problem, it may be a service that needs improving, or it may be getting some aspect of the state off people's backs. People want control over their own lives, but with access to support when they need it. The new prime minister has promised to give people control, but many people will remember Mrs Thatcher's nice words when she was elected, and she did nothing to provide the support people want in times of trouble. Only Liberal Democrats are fully committed to that balance of giving people control over their own lives, but making sure there is support available when you need it."
Claire added: "The party locally has been going from strength to strength recently, with a massive influx of members, particularly young people determined to use their energy to help build the future for them and their families. The party now has more members than at any time in over a decade."
Claire Young has been Liberal Democrat Councillor for Westerleigh Ward since 2007, and is Deputy Leader for the Liberal Democrats on South Gloucestershire Council. She lives locally in Coalpit Heath with her family.
Liberal Democrats across South Gloucestershire are calling for more local housing to be affordable for people living here.
John Davis is the only South Glos Councillor for the Yate area under 30. He says: “A 3 bedroom house in Yate is around the £200,000 mark; meaning to get a house you need a household income of around £47,500 and a £10,00 deposit not including the £3,000-£4,000 in legal fees and stamp duty.”
Most people in South Gloucestershire earn slightly over £21k a year.
Eva Lily Fielding in Thornbury has already highlighted the plight of lower-earners in the west of the district, telling the Gazette “I find it ridiculous that they call these homes affordable – affordable to whom?”
The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework has a definition of affordable rented properties – at 80% or below of the average local rents – but houses to buy have no strict definition.
Claire Young, lead member for strategic planning and communities said: “Young people who grew up around here are getting good jobs, but finding they have no prospect of buying a home near their families and work. It just doesn’t add up – you can’t have a housing ladder if people can’t afford to get on the bottom rung. We need more “real affordable” housing, and complete communities, not endless estates of executive houses.”
South Gloucestershire agreed an urgent motion at Council (Weds 29th June), condemning hate crimes in the wake of the vote to leave the UK.
Proposing the motion, Cllr Claire Young said: “Since the EU referendum result was announced on Friday, there has been a worrying rise in racially motivated offences across the country. In Cambridgeshire, police are investigating after hateful notes were pushed through the letter boxes of Polish people. A young Bristol mum has been spat on and abused. And I could quote many other examples of people who look or sound as if they may be from another country being told variations of ‘go home, we voted you out’.”
Cllr Young went on to highlight the concerns of a Hungarian man living in Yate, while other councillors spoke of incidents that had been raised with them.
Cllr Young added:
“We all need to make it clear that racism is not acceptable and that we welcome all.It is therefore disappointing that prominent Leave campaigner and local resident Arron Banks, when asked on twitter, "Do you deplore the attack on the Polish Social and Cultural Association earlier today. Or does it please you?"
"What's a psok cultural centre when it's at home. Pack in the guardian connected outrage.. Yawn .."
Let's make it clear we all, whether Leave or Remain campaigners, deplore racist abuse and attacks and keep South Gloucestershire a cohesive, safe community for all.”
The motion passed unanimously, and read:
South Gloucestershire agreed to a Liberal Democrat motion calling on developers to build the homes they have permission for, instead of constantly adding more and more permissions with no strategic plan.
Proposing, Cllr Maggie Tyrrell said: “It feels like we have no control over planning at the moment. I fear the new planning document we passed tonight will be as useless as the Core Strategy. Given all the work put in, it seems to be completely overridden by one sentence in the National Planning Policy Framework. The frustration is overwhelming. Thornbury has never said ‘no more’ to housing – we just want some control over the process.
“I hope this sends a message to our officers, and to Government. Please, let us build communities, not sprawling estates that take 20, 30 years to develop a community.
Cllr Clare Fardell added: “We have in fact got our 5 Year Land Supply – but the developers aren’t building it! Thornbury has accepted around a thousand new houses, and more has already been agreed, with more in the pipeline behind. It is absolutely absurd. We used to ask what kind of place South Gloucestershire was – and we realised we had many strong communities. They were all different, and all had pride in their communities. This is what we want to foster, which is so hard when we just get more and more piled in.”
The motion passed unanimously, and read: