CIRS Scrutiny Committee

Urban (especially Exeter) congestion and air pollution – new task group established

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I will be a member of a new task group which was set up yesterday to examine congestion and air pollution in the County’s urban areas, especially Exeter. The group was proposed by Exeter Labour County Councillor, Emma Brennan, to the County’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee (CIRS) on which I sit. I made the point that congestion is partly produced because towns like Seaton are losing town centre shops and public facilities like day centres and community hospital beds, and people from outlying areas like ours are losing bus services into Exeter, all of which force more people into Exeter by car. I shall be pressing for this broad approach to congestion, not just treating it as an urban problem.

Rural broadband and mobile phone coverage – progress needs to be seen

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The County’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee (CIRS), on which I sit, has set up a standing Task Group to monitor rural broadband and mobile phone coverage. Roll-out of broadband by Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), which has public funds to fill the gaps where commercial providers will not go, has been slow, they say because of the providers, and CDS is not sufficiently open to public scrutiny. At the November meeting, East Devon broadband campaigner, Graham Long, complained about the issue being dealt with by a task group which meets in private. I urged the committee to be aware of the frustration felt by those still without access to reliable broadband and the need to be seen to be urgently seeking progress.

Mobile phone coverage is of great concern in Branscombe and other rural parishes in the division. Unfortunately the committee was told that mobile phone providers would not agree to talk to us. However it emerged that the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership (LEP) has earmarked £2.5m to address phone coverage issues, although they have not yet decided how.