Westminster Notes: Poor mobile phone service must be tackled

It was great to hear, back in November, that Abbey St Bathans has been shortlisted for the Vodafone rural mobile phone scheme which will bring 3G mobile coverage.

Many communities in Berwickshire suffer from terrible mobile coverage so it’s good news that, in due course, people in Abbey St Bathans will be on the receiving end of high quality 3G voice services, and access to the internet on their mobiles.

I was pleased to meet local campaigner Joy Dobbie last week in Westminster who will be overseeing the project in her area and congratulate her on the village being shortlisted. As local MP, I want everywhere in the Borders to join Abbey St Bathans and receive better mobile signal which is why, at the time of writing, I am due to meet with representatives from the mobile phone companies and Ofcom to urge them to improve the service we receive locally.

Better communications infrastructure in the Borders is essential for our local economy and through the Borders Digital Forum I have been working on this issue over a number of years. We desperately need all the mobile companies to live up to their obligations to tackle poor service in rural areas like the Borders. There have been welcome initiatives from individual companies recently, like the Vodafone project, but much more is needed. I look forward to having a constructive dialogue with each company and seeing them take decisive steps, following the meetings, to improve the service we receive in the Borders.

This week, figures published by the Office of National Statistics showed that the UK’s economy grew by 2.6% last year, the fastest since 2007 and up from 1.7% in 2013. This means the UK was among the best-performing of the all the major economies in 2014.

Looking ahead to this year, it was also encouraging to hear the IMF forecast UK growth of 2.7% with other groups predicting growth as high as 3%. Although there is still a way to go before the UK economy is fully recovered from the recession, it is good to see strong positive growth. Here in the Borders we are feeling the effects of this with jobs being created, leading to 491 fewer people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) last December compared to December 2013.

Every person off JSA and in work is a positive step for them and their family and good news for the local economy. However, with 1,010 Borderers out of work there is no room for complacency and I know local businesses are still struggling with a challenging local and global market. As local MP, I will therefore continue to work with the local Council and businesses to ensure our local economy is able to grow and thrive.