MP Anthony Mangnall: Home working opens opportunities for Torbay
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March 23 seems a very long time ago and while the weeks have passed quickly the days have felt endless. How people have dealt with lockdown and those restrictions has been admirable.
The suffering has been great and the sacrifices immense, but there is an end in sight and July promises to be the month in which life may return to some degree of normality.
It is safe to say that none of us could have expected 2020 to turn out in this way.
However, we have faced adversity with typical British stoicism, humour and adaptability. The changes we have made are likely to be long lasting and the opportunities ahead are great.
The Bay can play a significant role in the economic revival and reinvention of the South West.
Just contemplate our changed habits from life in lockdown. From supporting local businesses and food supply, to volunteering within our communities, to working from home and making use of video conferencing.
These changes have come thick and fast and on the whole many of them, I hope, will remain in place for years to come.
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Our altered working manner has seen us adopt technology that allows us to communicate more readily and easily with those across our communities and country.
While, I was initially sceptical, this new form of interaction (whether Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams) will have a significant benefit to our local economy.
With home working more prevalent than at any other time, and the future of office space up for debate, it is more than likely that we will see great levels of movement from our urban centres to rural areas.
The Bay is well placed to benefit from such a situation.
Our magnificent coastline coupled with improving transport links means that businesses and people are already eying up this area as an area of opportunity.
But to achieve this, work must be done to improve digital connectivity.
It is simply not acceptable that we lag so far behind the rest of the country in terms of internet speeds and connection.
We are all too familiar with the frozen faces of colleagues on conference calls, the crackling sounds and time delays.
A new digital strategy is essential. The South West is by no means alone in poor connectivity, but failure to improve in this area will only hamper and delay any future economic recovery or growth.
One colleague, on a recent Torbay Together call made the point that we should not see the recovery as a restarting of the old but an opportunity to create and cultivate new and exciting businesses.
There is little doubt that the Bay is more than able to achieve an exciting level of clean, green growth which attracts businesses and individuals in tandem.
In typical British modesty we do not make enough noise about our tech sector and the fact that we are already ranked number three in the world for tech services means that there is still some way to go.
But to create those new opportunities means investing in our infrastructure and developing an attractive proposal that entices businesses to our unique and wonderful corner of the country.
The 'levelling up agenda' is part of my party's domestic agenda.
It seeks to level up the opportunities in every corner of the United Kingdom leaving no community behind. It hopes to develop and expand our economies, help boost wages and provide more jobs.
Our rural and coastal communities have languished when they should have boomed.
The intention to deliver a full fibre network is there and we must lose no time in delivering it across the Bay.