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Digital Technology: Urban Areas

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 3rd October 2019.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government what steps he is taking to support the digitalisation of high streets in small towns and villages.

Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (jointly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government)

High streets are changing and this government is committed to helping communities adapt. The Prime Minister recently announced a £3.6 billion Towns Fund as part of government’s vision to unite and level up cities, towns, coastal and rural areas, including small towns and villages, across our country. This Fund includes £1 billion for the Future High Streets Fund to support transformation on our high streets, and it will support local places to identify investment opportunities to support adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology.

In addition, we are providing support  for local leadership on our high streets and town centres with a High Streets Task Force. This will provide high streets and town centres with expert advice to adapt and thrive to changes in the market, providing support to local areas to develop data-driven strategies and connecting local areas to relevant experts.

Digitisation of high streets also forms a part of judging criteria of the Great British High Street Awards 2019, with one of the four aspects of the judging criteria focusing on digital transformation. High streets have been asked to showcase how they have used innovative new technologies or digital connectivity to transform their high street community.

To support deployment of 5G and further improve mobile coverage, we launched a joint consultation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 27 August, on proposals to reform the planning regime in England. We are seeking views on the principle of amending or creating new permitted development rights for operators so that communities can benefit from extended coverage.

The Digital Skills Partnership also seeks to improve digital capability across the whole skills spectrum - from the essential skills that help reduce digital exclusion, to the skills workers need in an increasingly digital economy, and through to the advanced skills required for specialist roles. The government is working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and combined authorities to help establish Local Digital Skills Partnerships across the country to tackle local digital skills challenges and build thriving and inclusive local economies.

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