It is a pleasure to speak in this pre-recess Adjournment debate. I will focus my contribution on two local issues in my constituency. I had planned to talk about three issues, but I guess that it will have to be two because we are short of time. I am sure that I will manage. The two issues are superfast broadband connections and progress on the local campaign to combat antisocial behaviour.
There is demand for superfast broadband across Bradley Stoke, which is a new town and the largest population centre in the constituency. The sticking point is that any significant undertaking to lay the necessary cables in the town to increase the broadband speed would have to be done at the providers’ cost because the roads are in a good state of repair.
Last year, we started a community broadband campaign that collected more than 1,000 signatures to demonstrate the demand for improvements to the Almondsbury exchange. Although I appreciate that there are local infrastructure issues, it is difficult to see why the private sector is not capitalising better on that demand. We also hosted a meeting with the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Mr Vaizey and the local authority. The Minister told us that to help solve the problem, the Government have set up a scheme to provide £530 million of funding to improve broadband provision across the country.
To ensure that South Gloucestershire council is able to benefit from the scheme, the Conservative-run council is working with Broadband Delivery UK to develop a local broadband plan, setting out how homes and businesses would benefit from improved broadband provision. Progress has not been as quick as I and some of my constituents would like. I am as keen as they are that concrete results emerge soon and I am hopeful that they will.
South Gloucestershire council had been working with Bath and North East Somerset council on a joint superfast broadband plan to submit to the Government for approval. However, at its November meeting, the Bath and North East Somerset cabinet decided to pull out of the plan. It made no sense for the Lib Dem administration to pull out of the joint plan with South Gloucestershire council, given all the benefits that superfast broadband could bring to households and businesses across both districts. I am pleased to report that progress is none the less being made behind the scenes. I hope to give positive news to my constituents on this matter early in the new year.
Hon. Members may remember that several months ago, in another pre-recess debate, I called for antisocial behaviour to be taken much more seriously by the police force that serves my area. I had been contacted by residents in Filton who were concerned that antisocial behaviour was being allowed to get out of control and was becoming a daily occurrence in some areas.
I am pleased to say that we have made significant progress in ensuring that the local police put the appropriate amount of time and energy into tackling antisocial behaviour. I am in constant contact with Avon and Somerset police, including with Chief Constable Colin Port, with whom I have an effective working relationship. In my mind, local policing has improved greatly because local people’s priorities are being considered and swift action is being taken. I pay particular tribute to Inspector Robert Evely, who has worked tirelessly to ensure that local residents feel safe and that their voice is heard in local police decision making.
When local policing takes into account local feelings, it can only be for the better. That is why I am such a strong supporter of the Government’s policy of police and crime commissioners and the elections that will take place in November 2012. Police and crime commissioners will be directly elected and accountable to the public who elected them and whom they serve. They will help to repair the broken link that I believe exists between the public and the police service. It is a fantastic policy that will be of huge benefit to residents in my area. I encourage all my constituents to take an interest, to participate in the elections and, if they are so minded, to consider running for the office.