Gazette & Herald Column: Healthcare, broadband and housing are priorities

Recess offers me another opportunity to focus on key local priorities like healthcare, broadband and housing, so the past week was packed with meetings and briefings. I spent time with the partners and managers of the newly-merged Kennet and Avon Medical Practice that brought together the surgeries in Marlborough and Pewsey into a new model able to invest and innovate so that the services provided to local patients can improve. I then hosted a packed Superfast Broadband Surgery in Devizes where we heard about the good progress being made across Wiltshire with the rollout of broadband connections, and focused on the different solutions for communities who have not yet been upgraded. Then it was off to Devizes Town Hall to chair a meeting organised by the Devizes Area Board and the Trust for Devizes to discuss the future vision for one of our most vibrant and beautiful market towns. A diverse audience discussed many ideas for attracting new businesses, investing in more affordable housing, redeveloping great sites like the Devizes Wharf and improving transport, and our super-able local councillors and Area Board Members agreed to review and respond to the suggestions. Then over the weekend I dropped off No. 2 for her first day at university and, like all parents of new students, shared the mixed emotions of pride and anxiety as she bounced off laden with bags of clothes and boxes of pasta. But then I plunged into the whirlwind of the Conservative Party in Manchester and was too busy to respond to her late night texts – thankfully showing her dancing in discos, not weeping over a mug of cocoa, although I would have liked to see a few more lecture notes in the pictures!

The Conference is always fun with thousands of delegates of all ages, many ideas to discuss and a chance to catch up with colleagues. I spoke at multiple fringe events on energy policy, green investment and the industrial strategy, and by the end of it was completely hoarse – so my heart went out to the PM as she fought her way through to the end of her keynote speech with a terrible cold and cough after having given dozens of speeches and interviews over the past week. As always, she fought on with full commitment to the end and I was delighted to hear the great initiatives announced like the big investment in building more affordable housing, action on student debt and a legislated cap on energy prices – proof that this government is committed to tackling the most important issues facing us today while getting on with the job of delivering a sensible Brexit.