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£1 billion deal for ‘Shared Rural Network’ to improve mobile coverage goes ahead

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Ceredigion MP, Ben Lake says he is delighted that a scheme to extend mobile coverage in hard-to-reach rural areas making poor mobile phone coverage a thing of the past has been given the green light, thanks to a major new deal between the Government and UK mobile network operators.

The ‘Shared Rural Network’ will mean that high quality 4G coverage will be available for 95 percent of the UK by 2026 which means consumers will get good 4G signal wherever they live, work or travel. The new plans involves four operators (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) joining forces to create a new organisation to deliver the ‘Shared Rural Network’. Each will be able to make the maximum use out of existing and new phone masts by being able to host their own equipment on them allowing their customers to access a mobile signal. The scheme will cost more than £1billion made up of £530m from the mobile operators and a £500m investment from the Government.

Ben Lake MP, who was one of 78 cross-party MPs who wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport last year to ask for government support for the scheme, said:

“This is really good news for my constituents. Better mobile connectivity will make flexible working, access to education and leisure opportunities easier. It will boost regional economic growth and begin to close the digital divide that exists across the country. The mobile has become an essential tool for most of us. It will certainly come as a relief to many people living in my constituency who are frustrated by the persistent ‘not spots’ which prevent them from carrying out many tasks which other people take for granted”.

The ’Shared Rural Network’ will eliminate the substantial majority of the country’s partial not-spots with the added benefit of increasing competition for mobile services, especially in rural areas; deliver on the Government’s 95% coverage manifesto commitment to extend coverage across the country; improve road coverage by reaching a further 16,000 kilometres of roads; involve minimum environmental impact and reduce the need for duplicate infrastructure and ensure that the UK has one of, if not the best, mobile coverage in Europe.

The initiative, which is a world first, follows government proposals for an overhaul of planning rules and is part of the Prime Minister’s plan to level up the country with world-class digital infrastructure across the UK to make sure homes and businesses are better connected.

Politics

Diverse voices but unity of purpose – a sustainable future for food production in Ceredigion.

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Cardigan XR have been delighted by the reception to the People’s Assembly held on line on Tuesday 23rd and attended by over 150 people. It has led to a surge of positive feedback from people who would seldom be in the same meeting; retired and busy farmers, ecologists, smallholders, politicians, horticulturalists, food advisors and vendors. Topics were diverse, but all centered on the importance of agriculture and land use in its widest sense and how the current system might be made more sustainable in Ceredigion. Attendees listened to introductions from Elin Jones MS and from XR Aberteifi who co-hosted the event, followed by short talks from the NFU, FUW, an ecologist, organic horticulturalists, the RSPB, Welsh food representatives, water and flooding, and Ben Lake MP.

For many, the People’s Assembly was their first experience of Deliberative Democracy. They welcomed the opportunity to listen to experts and then form into small groups so that the opinions of each individual could be listened to. The 17 groups discussed: ‘What might a sustainable farming system in Ceredigion look like? how might we get there?’ They noted their detailed answers and chose their main points to report back to the main meeting. There were many recommendations covering a very diverse field; education through to easier entry into farming. The results are still being brought together but will be made available shortly. It is planned that the results will be sent to all participants, Councillors, Members of the Senedd and anyone else who wishes to see them. ” This is what open democracy is about. Now we need to build on it to make real and lasting change for a sustainable future. Similar assemblies can help us to build consensus in our urgent need to find a way forward to halt dangerous climate change.” said Sarah Wright, co-host from Extinction Rebellion.

Many attendees expressed their feeling that this was just the beginning of the journey and that there is a need to keep the doors open to positive discussion. Clearly there is a lot more to be said and many attendees elected to stay on and keep talking after the official Assembly ended.

Elin Jones MS said
If we’d organised a public meeting to discuss sustainable agri in a village hall somewhere between Llanon and Llanarth then we’d never have got 150+ all in one place, with great speakers, breakout to small groups and all over in 2hrs. But it happened tonight on Zoom in Ceredigion.

A constructive meeting with diverse voices but unity of purpose – a sustainable future for food production in Ceredigion.

Start of a very useful discussion. Start of a great conversation. And action.
Diolch i’r trefnwyr, XR Aberteifi, i’r NFU, FUW, CFfI, Ben Lake, cynghorwyr, ffermwyr, cynhyrchwyr, gwerthwyr, a phawb. Cychwyn trafodaeth fuddiol iawn.

If you would like an emailed copy of the many ideas from the People’s Assembly, please contact Cardigan Extinction Rebellion on cardigan@xrcymru.org

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Joyce calls for action on illegal scallop dredging

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Local MS Joyce Watson is calling for increased monitoring and enforcement to tackle illegal fishing activities around the Welsh coastline.

The Marine Conservation Society confirmed reports of people exploiting the lockdown period through a range of illegal activities. Due to the challenge of social distancing on boats, the normal monitoring of the coastline has been restricted during recent months.

Mrs Watson, who has campaigned over this issue over many years, raised this issue at the Senedd Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee (25 June 2020).

Speaking later, Mid and West Wales Member of the Senedd Joyce Watson MS said:

“I was disgusted to hear that as many as 30 scallop dredgers have been spotted, potentially within marine protected areas.

“This could do untold damage to our marine environment. It can take up to 15 years to recover from just one trawl by scallop dredgers in marine protected areas.

“This behaviour also damages the local fishing economy. It is particularly unfair on those who play by the rules at such a challenging time.

“Unfortunately because of a lack of direct on-the-water evidence, prosecutions may be difficult in these cases.

“Therefore I plan to call for a return to effective monitoring and enforcement as soon as is possible.”

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Elin Jones calls for support for coach and bus businesses

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Ceredigion MS says sector is in ‘dire need of immediate financial support’

Elin Jones MS has written to the Welsh Government to call for support for Bus Companies operating in Ceredigion, an industry that is in ‘dire need of immediate financial support’.

In her letter to Ken Skates MS, the Welsh Government’s Economy and Transport Minister, Elin Jones said that only 2% of coaches that are usually in use are currently active. The sector employs over 42,000 people in Wales. However, bookings across the sector are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until summer 2021, due in part to the difficulty in implementing social distancing.

Elin also called for a specific package of support for the coach and bus industry, as they weren’t classed by the Government during the pandemic as leisure companies, they have been ineligible for the financial support packages that have been offered to date. Europe’s largest coach tour operator, Wigan based Shearings, has already collapsed.

In her letter, Elin Jones MS said:

“This pandemic has plunged the industry into a fight for its future. The collapse of Shearings is an indication of what could happen to well established family owned coach businesses across Wales, as well as the whole of the UK, without direct government investment.

“Whilst companies are taking all reasonable steps to cut costs, including the mothballing of coaches and placing the majority of staff on furlough, they still face large costs, some I’m told have costs that are totalling on average £1,900 per day.

“As well as providing some short term financial support, the sector would also be in need of a flexible job retention scheme to allow staff to remain on furlough until business levels return to normal, which will be beyond the current October end date.

“Certainly in Ceredigion there are several local coach and private hire companies, many of which are longstanding family businesses who work to support public transport, school transport and community activities. It would be a travesty in this rural area if these businesses were to fail.”

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