New Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis has confirmed that improving transport links and building more houses are key priorities for the government in the ‘South West’.
Mr Lewis was speaking at the South West Conservative Conference in Bristol over the weekend.
The event featured speakers and guests from across the region, including MPs, PCCs and councillors.
Mr Lewis gave the keynote speech before answering questions from a sell-out audience of MPs, councillors and members at The Bristol Hotel in Bristol.
Afterwards, he said: “The government is investing record levels in the region’s transport infrastructure, with several projects already complete and many others moving forward.
“These include major road upgrades to the A30 in Cornwall, the A358 near Taunton, the A303 near Yeovil, the A303 at Stonehenge and the A419 in Gloucestershire.
“Last week the Transport Secretary confirmed a number of commitments around rail in the South West, most notably around improvements to the line at Dawlish, while passengers on the Great Western route can look forward to the introduction of new high-speed trains from this summer, with extra capacity at peak times.
“Also last week we confirmed £140m of funding for the South West towards vital infrastructure which will pave the way for thousands of much-needed new homes to be built more quickly, covering 27 different housing projects across the region.
“The government is determined to deliver on all levels for people in the South West, and improving transport links and building more houses in the areas which need them the most are among our top priorities.”
The conference, entitled The Way Forward in 2018, included speeches and contributions by MPs Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) and Mark Harper (Forest of Dean), South West MEP Ashley Fox, West of England Mayor Tim Bowles, Gloucestershire County Council leader Mark Hawthorne and Police and Crime Commissioners Alison Hernandez (Devon and Cornwall) and Angus Macpherson (Wiltshire and Swindon).
South West regional chairman Peter Booth, Lord Mayor of Bristol Lesley Alexander and South West voluntary party board member Pamela Hall also addressed the audience, while there was a presentation by young Conservatives.
MORE CORNISH NEWS
Meanwhile Cornwall Council Leader Adam Paynter has led south west council leaders to write an open letter calling for fairer funding for the region.
Leaders of Devon, Isles of Scilly, Plymouth, Somerset, Torbay and Dorset Councils have joined Cornwall Council in calling for central government to provide more funding to stretched rural councils.
Paynter, asked fellow council Leaders across the South West to join together in calling for a change to unfair funding which sees rural authorities under increasing pressure. The open letter signals the level of discontent in the South West about the challenging financial landscape local authorities are facing.
“The current funding formula is a post code lottery favouring metropolitan areas, rather than based on need. Most of us are being forced to bridge the gap between Government funding and demand for services through raising council taxes and generating income, which just hits residents harder.
“In Cornwall funding for our children’s services is in the bottom 7 out of 56 Unitary Authorities. We also expect Cornwall’s population of over 85s to increase by 31% more than in the rest of the UK in the next 20 years. This will put more pressure on services to protect the most vulnerable in society.
“My colleagues across the South West face similar challenges. This letter makes it clear that the funding settlement for local authorities is inadequate. The system is unsustainable and needs fundamental reform,” he said.
Cornwall Council is running a fair funding campaign asking businesses and residents to #StandUpForCornwall and sign a pledge asking central government to implement a fairer funding formula which could deliver an extra £39 million for services for people in Cornwall. The current model is based on historical, outdated formulas which means that funding allocations in metropolitan and rural areas are widely different.