• The Year that was

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    06 January 2017

    2016 has been a turbulent and unprecedented year for our country. While the Government has been working hard to fulfil its manifesto commitments: raising the tax-free personal allowance to £11,500 from this April (amounting to a tax cut for 31 million people); extending free childcare and sticking to sound economic policies that now see unemployment standing at an 11-year low, it is Brexit that has dominated the national headlines. Politicians, pollsters and political commentators were left wrong-footed by the UK’s decision to vote to leave the EU in June last year. I voted to ‘Remain’ in the EU and campaigned hard to encourage others to do the same. But on the day it was not to be and now I am equally committed to ensure that the will of the British people is respected and that I do my bit working with fellow Conservative MPs in Parliament to ensure that we make a success of our departure. That will see huge challenges over the coming months and for many years ahead. But the impact of June 23rd has not just been confined to our future relationship with the EU - that tumultuous day last summer triggered the resignation of a Prime Minister, the selection of another, the resignation of almost the entire shadow cabinet, and a bitter leadership struggle within the Labour Party resulting in the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn with an enhanced authority and mandate from his party. Across the pond another earthquake was to occur – the election of Donald Trump as President-elect – only time will tell what this will mean for the world. Locally here in Central Devon politics has been less dramatic but no less important. I have continued to push hard for improved broadband services. Whereas nationally 92% of users currently have access to superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps or more) in Central Devon we are down at 68%. I was delighted to welcome the Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock, to Ilsington in November, where we discussed how to intensify broadband rollout local including the point to point wireless internet being rolled out over Dartmoor. Airband UK’s superfast broadband - using Cambium’s point-to-point wireless technology – is now serving just over 2,000 Dartmoor residents, and will reach 4,000 early this year. Another significant challenge, faced particularly by the cattle farming industry has been bovine TB. Here in Devon in the 12 months to the end of August 2016, 7,000 cattle had to be slaughtered due to this scourge. Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK which costs the taxpayer £100 million each year. The Governments 25-year strategy to eradicate this disease is delivering results with more than half the country on track to be officially free of bovine TB by 2019. I fully supported Defra’s announcement last summer that seven new culling areas were to be permitted, including here in Devon, which will play a critical role in helping to eradicate this terrible disease. More from Mel at