Sussex Express: Rural Powerhouse

This column first appeared in the Sussex Express on Friday August 14th, 2015.

It’s unsurprising that Wealden is the 19th best rural place to live in Britain. We boast beautiful countryside, lively towns in Uckfield, Hailsham and Crowborough, fantastic village communities and good-natured residents who make Wealden what it is.

But we still have work to do to make sure that Wealden has the infrastructure to match its potential. Prosperity and community are harder to achieve or maintain without connectivity.

George Osborne is rightly backing the Northern Powerhouse. But why confine ambition for our economies and communities to places north of London? To the south, I want to build a Rural Powerhouse, one known for its thriving small businesses as for the beauty of its countryside.

That’s why I’m campaigning for improved train services with Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, because our economy can’t move forward if people are stuck on platforms. I’m pleased that the timetable for platform extension works has been announced and at a recent rail summit I was encouraged by Southern’s commitment to improve its passenger communication by, for example, linking platform staff to the control centre with tablet computers.

We also have to fight for the interests of rural businesses. This week the price of milk has been in the news; why, when you think about it, do we think it’s reasonable to pay more for a bottle of water than for milk? Stafford’s cows have stolen my thunder, but later this year I will be challenging Wealden’s supermarkets over the price they pay our farmers.

The downside of being an MP is that you are often stuck in Westminster, so I can’t always be out enjoying the Weald. On Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th August I have therefore commandeered a trusty van in which I will take myself around Wealden’s towns and villages.

My mobile surgery pit stops are online – please come along with concerns, questions and suggestions for how I can make our Rural Powerhouse even more powerful. #meetnus