Magazine article Public Finance

Cumbrian MP Set to Pioneer Big Society

Magazine article Public Finance

Cumbrian MP Set to Pioneer Big Society

Article excerpt

The chair of the parliamentary group on local democracy has pledged to help mitigate spending cuts by pioneering Big Society-style community projects in his constituency - the most sparsely populated one in England.

Conservative MP Rory Stewart told Public Finance that a series of community-based pilot projects, reflecting Prime Minister David Cameron's Big Society policy, were already planned for his Penrith and the Border constituency. They range from developing affordable housing schemes to negotiating better deals for building a bicycle path.

'When you look at it from 30,000 feet it sounds like none of this is going to work but when you look at it at real grassroots level you often find it isn't about public money at all,' he said.

Stewart's biggest project is to provide fast broadband access for his entire constituency by 2012. About 80% of the district is uncovered, which poses 'a very serious threat' to local businesses and the economy, he said.

The government has committed £300m from the Digital Switchover fund for rural broadband access across the country by 2015, but total costs are expected to exceed £12bn. …

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