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North West Norfolk MP James Wild: Talking broadband at conference

The latest column from the MP during the coronavirus pandemic period, Friday, October 9, 2020

This week was the Conservative Party Conference.

You could be forgiven for missing it as this took place virtually. As part of the events, I participated in a discussion with the Chief Executive of Openreach on broadband.

The latest column from North West Norfolk MP James Wild
The latest column from North West Norfolk MP James Wild

North West Norfolk has 92 per cent superfast broadband availability but 40 per cent of lines get less than 30 Mbps, and a quarter of lines in Grimston, Gayton, and elsewhere deliver speeds below 10 Mbps (there is a legal right to receive this speed). So the desire for gigabit speed is significant.

£5 billion has been committed by the government to delivering gigabit capable broadband by 2025 by supporting roll out in the hardest to reach 20 per cent of the country, including West Norfolk.

Covid-19 has driven significant changes in how we live, work, and communicate. Some of the effects will be short term but others will be long-lasting which high speed digital networks will enable.

The potential to transform public services is significant. Take healthcare, where video appointments for hospital check-ups and with GPs have increased dramatically. There is also the opportunity for greater access to skills and online learning.

Cartoon by artist John Elsom
Cartoon by artist John Elsom

Greater digital connectivity – along with transport – will help level up and encourage businesses to relocate and thrive in our beautiful area. By doing so it can make villages more sustainable with successful local economies.

I will continue to press the government on the urgency of delivering on the promised investment in this area.

Another focus of the conference was the crucial work to accelerate the UK’s path to net zero by 2050.

As part of plans for a green industrial revolution, the Prime Minister confirmed the UK would maintain its world-leading position – with the East of England the driving force - in offshore wind by increasing targets for deployment.

He set a target to double the capacity of renewable energy in the next auction – providing clean energy to power up to 10 million homes.

One of the effects of Covid-19 has been the strong community spirit that has shone through. The relaunch of Stop Hate in Norfolk builds on that sense of community and is a welcome effort to make clear that hate has no place in our society.

Around 1200 incidents are estimated to happen across the county every year, although 80 per cent are not reported. Anyone who experiences, or witnesses, abuse should report it to the police.

Here in West Norfolk we are continuing, for the moment, to hold the pandemic at bay. Latest figures show the rolling seven-day average of cases is below five per 100,000.

However, parts of the county have rates three times that. It is important to keep following the advice so that it remains under control. Sadly, a recent death at QEH underlined again the impact of this terrible virus.

Finally, it was a bittersweet moment as the Linnets kicked off their new season with a performance that deserved a crowd. I will keep pressing for this to be allowed safely. With a last minute win against Maidenhead it’s been a strong start – long may it continue!

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