Apart from my regular constituency surgery to deal with problems brought to me by individual constituents, I had two important meetings this Friday.
One was a further meeting with representatives from the local campaign groups and local authorities about HS2. You might recall that I convened a similar meeting earlier this year and we agreed then that we ought to meet up again once the Department for Transport had published its consultation documents. It was a pretty intensive meeting, discussing various ideas for further letters and FOI requests (I’ll post on the detailed follow-up later) and allowing us all to share ideas about how to make sure that the voice of local people is properly heard during the consultation. I know that the HS2 Action Alliance and Stop HS2 are waiting for further analysis from their experts before putting in formal submissions and their advice to residents is to hold off submitting a response to the consultation until that analysis of their Department’s official documents, including its revised business case and its Appraisal of Sustainability is available.
The other meeting was with a group of major local employers under the banner of the Buckinghamshire Enterprise and Learning Partnership (BELP). In some respects we are lucky. The local economy has not been hit as badly in the recession as some other parts of the country. But we can’t be complacent. The rise in joblessness in both Wycombe and Aylesbury has been steep, though from a very low base and with the current rates of unemployment still well below the national average. We talked about a number of different issues affecting local business. What was encouraging was to hear the determination of employers to make the case for more businesses to locate to our part of the world and to campaign for business-friendly policies by both local and central government.