Michael has demanded full, public information about the planned rollout of superfast broadband in Sevenoaks.
His call is the latest step in his campaign to secure better broadband for his constituents.
In recent meetings with BT and Kent County Council, which manages the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) public subsidy contract, Michael has set out the importance of giving people the ability to see when the rollout is expected to reach their area.
Michael said: “Better information is the first step to securing better broadband. Too often there is uncertainty and confusion about when people can access superfast speeds. With full public information, BT can be held to account for what they promise.”
Michael has welcomed the announcement that the Government will introduce a new legal right to a fast broadband connection.
In the Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty stated: ‘Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.’
The news is a boost to Michael’s ongoing campaign to secure improvements to broadband for homes and businesses throughout his constituency. Michael has already met representatives from BT and is continuing to press for assurances about the progress of the superfast rollout programme.
Michael said: “I am delighted by this new commitment. Sevenoaks needs better broadband, now and for years to come. This new universal obligation will mean that no home or business is left behind. I will continue to fight for my constituents to ensure it is implemented as soon as possible.”
Last May, I was honoured to be elected for the fifth time as your Member of Parliament.
Since the election, I have continued to work hard on behalf of all of my constituents. I hold two advice surgeries each month, as I have done consistently since 1997, and I regularly raise issues and concerns on your behalf. My Westminster office also deals with hundreds of emails and enquiries every week. I work closely with our county, district, town and parish councillors, as well as other organisations such as Kent Police, the Citizens Advice Bureau and West Kent Housing.
I remain closely involved in campaigns across Sevenoaks and Swanley. From fighting to save Hextable Dance Studio to defending Sevenoaks Hospital, I am proud to support my constituents and fight for our communities.
Supporting our local schools
I am a strong supporter of schools across my constituency. Since the election I have visited schools in Westerham, Sundridge, Swanley, Sevenoaks, and elsewhere to speak to pupils and answer their questions about my work as MP.
Winning our campaign to secure grammar school provision last October was probably my best ever day as your MP. This decision was long in coming but the priority now is to get this annexe built and open for local parents and pupils. My next goal is to secure grammar provision for boys and I am working on this.
Getting a better deal for commuters
Our ageing railways cause a huge amount of frustration for commuters and passen
gers. Disruption may be the price of the vital work at London Bridge – but passengers need to know why they are delayed and what is being done about it. I was concerned to learn on a recent train cab ride that drivers are often unable to inform passengers about ongoing disruption and slow running while their train is in operation. Making sure drivers and passengers have rapid, clear and sufficent information is essential. I will continue to raise these issues with Southeastern to make rail travel easier for my constituents.
Bringing Oyster to Sevenoaks was another promise I made at the general election. Rail passengers have waited long enough and I will be meeting the Rail Minister again shortly to push for a definite date.
Fighting for our NHS services
I am committed to our local NHS. We need to see more services in Sevenoaks, not fewer. That’s why I have continued to defend Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure. The withdrawal of some clinics was concerning but I have secured assurances that these vital services will continue to be available for local people.
Protecting GP services is also important. There is a review of GP provision underway and I will ensure the views of local people are fully represented. The NHS is so much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it is local and loved.
Boosting our local economy
In Sevenoaks and Swanley, our local economy is strong. Compared with 2010, there are 600 fewer people out of work, including 200 fewer young unemployed, and we have 600 more businesses. I see evidence of this progress on each of my regular constituency days. Since the election, I have visited businesses, shops and local sites throughout the constituency and I have more visits already planned for the next few months.
But there is still more to do to support our local economy. Broadband is a key issue that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce continue to raise with me. I have recently begun a fresh campaign to demand further action from BT. We need to make sure our local businesses and those who work from home have the broadband they need to thrive, wherever they are based.
Michael welcomed figures released this week showing that tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Sevenoaks and Swanley are now able to benefit from superfast broadband coverage.
The Government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to bring superfast broadband to as many people as possible across the UK. The Kent element of the national programme has been allocated over £17 million.
In the Sevenoaks constituency, this will ensure that 14,726 premises will benefit from superfast coverage by June 2017, of which 11,724 have now received coverage. This is in addition to the 23,584 premises that have received it under the commercial programme.
In the three months to June specifically, 1,769 premises across the constituency have gained coverage.
Michael said: “I welcome that the Government’s commitment to superfast broadband expansion is continuing to benefit people across my constituency. It is crucial to keeping our local economy growing and will make life easier, cheaper and faster. I will continue to advocate further expansion over the coming years.”
Many congratulations to the residents of Godden Green, Underriver, Bitchet Green, Stone Street and Wildernesse in the Sevenoaks constituency and to those of Ivy Hatch and Shipbourne who live in the Tonbridge & Malling constituency.
Gigaclear’s order threshold in this area has now been reached and plans are under way to install an ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises broadband service throughout the community. Construction is due to start in early 2014 and to take 12-14 weeks to complete.
The community representatives in this area have worked so hard over the last year to bring this project to their villages – again many congratulations – it has been a considerable effort.
BT’s planned improvements for other areas in the constituency have now been published. There are several rural areas where broadband speeds are currently very slow and and little prospect for significant improvement to the quality of service in the near future, so I am pressing KCC and SDC to assist with a search for other solutions for all these villages as soon as possible.