Monthly Archives: December 2010

broadband success in cumbria


Secretary of State hails broadband success in Cumbria

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt,
described Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, as
‘instrumental’ in winning the broadband grant for his Cumbrian

The Secretary of State said: ‘I am delighted to be able to announce
the support for Cumbria. I was particularly impressed by Rory
Stewart’s approach and advocacy of broadband for Cumbria. He and the
Cumbrian communities should be very proud of what they have achieved.’

Rory said: “this is all due to the hard work of Cumbrian
communities. They have shown how, by throwing themselves into
broadband, they can change the agenda and bring government support to
an area that’s too often ignored. Six months ago it looked as though
only 5% of Cumbrians would get superfast (NGA) broadband by 2017. We
may now be in a position, with the government’s support, to get
superfast broadband to the majority by 2012.  This is the first clear
result we have had from being named the Big Society vanguard. The
government is carrying through on its promise to support and reward
community action. I hope this is only the beginning. We are looking to
take the national lead on decentralization, participatory budgeting,
planning, affordable housing, and in rural services. But it’s the
Cumbrian communities that deserve the praise, not me”.

cumbria broadband boost

Cumbria gets Broadband Boost in CSR


Cumbria was one of the surprise beneficiaries of today’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Among the many cuts announced by the Chancellor, George Osborne, was a commitment to invest in bringing Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to Carlisle and Eden Districts. Cumbria has been selected as the location for one of four NGA pilots to be overseen by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the body within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) charged with meeting the government’s objective of ensuring that the UK has the best superfast broadband network Europe by the end of the parliament.


Penrith and the Border was selected because it is the most rural and the most sparsely populated constituency in England and because it has recently taken a national lead in broadband development. Cumbria also boasts nationally renowned community broadband projects including Cybermoor in Alston and Great Asby Broadband in Great Asby.

There has been much speculation that Penrith and the Border might win this award since Rory hosted an international broadband conference in Penrith on 18 September. The conference was attended by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Broadband, senior officials from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the UK’s leading infrastructure providers such as BT, GEO and Vtesse,alongside representatives of the Obama administration’s broadband team. (Accounts of the event can be found hereherehere and here).


Rory said: “This is fantastic news for the Cumbrian economy and rural areas at this very challenging time. I am so excited that all the hard work of the Cumbrian communities has been recognized in this fashion. Superfast broadband will allow our thousands of businesses to survive, compete and flourish. It will help children with their homework and the elderly with their healthcare. It will allow farmers to use the very latest veterinary technology. It will help people to work from and continue to live in remote communities and help those of who live in rural Cumbria to overcome the barrier of distance. This is a dream come true. Hundreds of Cumbrians have been working alongside my team over the last four months to put us in a position to be selected. I’m so delighted that we have been successful.”


Rory added that he hoped that BDUK’s funding would be used to provide Next Generation Access broadband for the majority with “superfast” speeds of at least 20Mbps and decent broadband provision (a minimum of 2Mbps) for everyone.

national citizen service



Rory has thrown his weight behind Cumbria’s bid to pilot the government’s voluntary National Citizen Service (NCS) scheme. The scheme will allow 11 leavers from different backgrounds and locations to become community volunteers and participate in youth initiatives all over Cumbria. The project would be run by Connexions Cumbria and The Outward Bound Trust. Rory has held meetings with Ministers in the Department for Education and the Office for Civil Society, and civil servants in Whitehall in support of the bid. He has argued that Cumbria is an ideal place for the scheme, both because of its tradition of outdoors education and because of its position as the vanguard for the Prime Minister’s ‘Big Society’ project. The NCS pilot in Cumbria is thought to be one of only two rural areas on the shortlist. Young people will be invited to take part in a 6-8 week summer programme, to include residential courses at Cumbrian campuses such as Newton Rigg.


Rory said: “I am thrilled to hear the news that Connexions Cumbria and The Outward Bound Trust have been shortlisted, and I am doing everything in my power to support Cumbria’s aim to pilot this scheme. I can think of no better place for NCS to be piloted than here. Our county consists of both rural and urban areas, has incredible opportunities for youth volunteering, sites such as Newton Rigg that are perfectly suited to host young people on this scheme, and a wealth of local businesses willing to involve participants in apprenticeship and work placement schemes. Our aim is a more cohesive society; the transition to adulthood is important and often difficult, and NCS aims to support that by mixing participants from different backgrounds and encouraging youngsters to work together to create social action projects in their local communities.”


The Eden valley in Cumbria has already been selected as a vanguard area for the development of the coalition government’s vision for a ‘Big Society’ and the opportunity to have the NCS piloted in Cumbria would reinforce the county’s place at the core of this policy development. Cumbrian businesses have been quick to support Connexions Cumbria and The Outward Bound Trust in this attempt to bring NCS to Cumbria.


It is expected that the successful pilot schemes will be announced before Christmas 2010, with young people being recruited early in 2011 for pilot schemes in the Summer.


school councils of north eden


Rory opened the School Councils of North Eden (SCoNE) debate at the Town Hall in Penrith on Friday 8 October, meeting students and teachers of schools from Calthwaite, Greystoke, Langwathby, Lazonby, High Hesket, Kirkoswald, Patterdale, Penruddock, Plumpton, Skelton and Stainton and joining Chairman of Eden District Council Joan Raine and Leader of Eden District Council Gordon Nicolson in an event held in Eden District Council’s chamber.

Rory talked to students about his life as an MP and British politics, encouraging questions from the children before introducing the debate “Are wind farms the best thing since sliced bread, or the worst thing since sprouts?”

Rory commented:   “I was delighted to interact with the engaged and interested youth of North Eden at the Town Hall today. We must allow them to use their energy and potential. An early interest in politics can build a strong social foundation for our communities. It doesn’t matter whether they support any particular party – or no party at all – young citizens should take an interest and become involved in politics. The majority of young people I meet at the moment in Eden are impassioned by local issues – from school meals, and village shops to the building of a new supermarket in Penrith (to which many are opposed!). School councils such as those attending the Town Hall visit today exemplified this passion, and I was really delighted to see it in action.”

Gordon Nicolson, Eden District Council’s Leader said: “We are delighted to host the visit and debate of SCoNE with Rory Stewart MP and it has been really enjoyable to listen to the young people debate on such important issues as wind farms. This topic always provokes a raft of different views in an area such as this, where maintaining the natural beauty of the landscape and finding sustainable resources to provide energy are both of equal importance.”

shankhill primary school


Shankhill Primary School yesterday won a prestigious parliamentary prize for their work on the internet. They received the £1,200 prize at a ceremony in parliament with Rory Stewart MP. Rory also gave them a tour of parliament.

The prize was in the North-West section of the Make IT Happy competition. It celebrates the excellent and inspirational work that the UK’s primary schools are doing to promote and teach children and their families about using the internet.

The pupils from Shankhill, a primary school at Hethersgill with only 45 children, have been helping eleven adults to learn about Desktop Publishing, teaching them how to print posters and also make Christmas cards on their computers.

The £1,200 winnings from the competition – over ten times the school’s annual IT budget – will be used to benefit the school’s future use of technology. Shankhill junior teacher Catherine Armstrong said: “It’s been absolutely wonderful. It’s been brilliant for the community because people have been learning skills which they can use, and it’s good for the children to learn new skills as well.”

Rory said: “This is an inspirational group of young children. Their work suggests how much we can benefit from faster broadband for Cumbria and reminds us how young people can lead the way. I very much hope that their success will encourage many more schools to set up similar programmes in and around Penrith and the Border.  Shankhill Primary School has been educating older members of their community for almost five years; they have been running community workshops and helping people to learn about the internet. As part of our wider broadband initiative, this is a great example of how cross-generational the internet’s appeal is. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind, and Shankill are setting an amazing example to the rest of our constituency. I am incredibly proud of them.”

Rory also took the children into parliament to watch a packed debate, where they were able to see the Prime-Minister and most of the senior members of the cabinet.

export ban for crosby garrett mask


Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border has called on an immediate ban on the export of the Crosby Garrett Roman mask, which sold today for £2.3 million at auction in Christie’s – almost eight times the estimated price.

Rory’s own personal email and website campaign to constituents and supporters, in an effort to help Tullie House Museum, yielded more donations and pledges from all over the world. These included the donation of an original work by a contemporary Belgian artist, and a substantial monetary pledge from another Cumbrian museum’s Trust. He intends to lobby Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Communication, Culture and the Creative Industries and a recent visitor to Cumbria, and the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art in order to find a way to keep the rare Roman treasure in the country.

Rory commented: “This was, of course, a huge disappointment for all Cumbrians and the staff and friends of Tullie House Museum especially, who have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funds in the past weeks. Cumbrians have shown both their immense generosity and sincere appreciation of this exceptional antiquity, and I know that this is a blow to their hopes to see the helmet installed in Tullie House’s new Roman Frontiers gallery. But we must not be downcast, and look to the bodies that exist to protect finds such as these from leaving the country never to be seen again. We must lobby hard to retain it here – where it has lain undisturbed for 2,000 years – and find time to try and match the price. If anything, today’s result has spurred me on to make this happen, and I will actively work – for as long as it takes – to secure its future here in the UK.”

cumbria at conservative party conference


Cumbria and its unique position as the only rural vanguard for the government’s ‘Big Society’ was a key issue at this week’s Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. It was debated at a variety of main-stage and fringe events and widely cited by members of the government.

On Sunday October 3rd Rory Stewart MP chaired a packed ResPublica debate entitled “The Big Society in Cumbria: A Rural Case Study”. The unusual regional focus, the high-level speakers and the large crowd – it was standing room only – reflected the new importance of Cumbria and Eden in the government’s Big Society initiative. Greg Clark MP (Minister of State for Decentralisation and Planning Policy), Lord Wei (Government Advisor on the Big Society), journalist Matthew Parris also spoke at the Cumbria event. The event, attracted considerable media attention from TV coverage to websites.

The event was fully sponsored by local Cumbrian businessman Phillip Day of Edinburgh Woollen Mill. MP John Stevenson of Carlisle joined Cumbria County Councillor Duncan Fairbairn, businessman Trevor Hebdon and many other Cumbrians at the event. There were also presentations by Kirkby Stephen residents Libby Bateman and Tom Woof of the Upper Eden Community Plan (UECP).

Rory expressed his pleasure at seeing so many Cumbrians in the audience, and used his introductory speech to explain the concept of Big Society with Cumbrian examples.

Rory said: “Big Society is not a replacement for government. It may have the effect of saving government money, but that it not its purpose. Cumbrian Big Society has powerful examples to share with the rest of the country. I am so pleased that Cumbria was able – with the generous support of Philip Day – to have this event.”

Tom Woof, Chairman of the Upper Eden Community Plan said: “I was pleased to be given a chance to talk about the UECP and the ‘reality on the ground’.  I urge the government to be bold and back Councils over Whitehall, and community groups over Councils.”

Cumbria continued to feature in other events. Broadband Minister Ed Vaizey signalled out the Penrith and the Border broadband initiative for praise three times in his speech, describing the recent Rheged conference and the new plans it produced as ‘brilliant’.

Rory also spoke about the importance of Cumbrian local parish councils at the Demos event “From rhetoric to reality: building the Big Society” on Tuesday October 5th and at the National Association for Local Councils (NALC) – “What is Localism?” discussion on October 3rd.

Rory commented: “Everything – from organising communities to building affordable housing projects or generating renewable energy – benefits from a democratic body. Big Society believes that local decisions are more informed, popular and practical than government traditionally imagines. However, responsibility is mutual: if parishes are given more power, they should also learn to take the larger public view and consider the consequences of their decisions beyond the parish line.”

Rory described the conference events as a ‘great success’ and said: “Civil servants have been seconded to Eden to work with me on these projects to ensure that they succeed, and we hope to be able to publicise what has been achieved so far in early November.”

Libby Bateman, UECP’s project officer added: “I was astounded at the amount of interest the ‘Big Society’ concept is stirring across all areas of government.  At home we are focusing on grassroots, community-led projects which will make a difference to our lives in rural Cumbria, but the fact of the matter is that outside, the government is focusing on our communities. There is an enormous window of opportunity open to us at the moment and it is essential that we grasp it with both hands and maximise our potential to deliver via the ‘Big Society’ concept.”

the countryside alliance awards




The Countryside Alliance Awards, nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’, were borne of a need to support and promote rural communities. They celebrate people going the extra mile to ensure that rural Britain’s food and farming industry, small businesses, traditional skills, forward-thinking enterprises and, most of all, its people, can flourish.


Rory commented: “These awards are an excellent way to promote the businessmen and women who are working hard for rural Britain.  Our local produce in Cumbria is second to none. We are the most remote rural constituency in Britain. And we have one of the strongest voluntary sectors in the country. There are so many people here who deserve national recognition. It would be great if people became involved and nominated someone today.  I’m sure we can bring a British title home.”


The Awards run across the following eight categories:

1.        Local food Award

2.       Village shop/Post Office Award

3.       Enterprise Award

4.       The Daily Telegraph Traditional Business Award

5.       Butcher Award

6.       Hunter Rural Hero (16 and over)

7.       Hunter Rural Hero (15 and under)

8.       Grassroots Award for the Countryside Alliance member who has done most to advance rural campaigning in 2010.





Rory has announced that he is to set up an advisory committee of young farmers from across the constituency. Rory has, during his campaign and since election as a member of parliament, been a staunch supporter of Cumbrian Young Farmers and has been working closely with Jan Davinson, secretary of Cumbria YFC to discuss the establishment of an advisory group. Rory hopes that the group will meet quarterly to discuss farming issues directly affecting the younger generation of farmers, and intends to relay their concerns to Ministers in Westminster. It is hoped that their first meeting will take place this autumn, and letters of invitation have been sent to a selection of representatives of young farmers’ groups within Penrith and the Border.


Rory commented: “My first encounter with Cumbrian Young Farmers was on a charity bike ride, last Spring; it was a great introduction to the crowd and I have seen many of them again at farms from Bewcastle to the Howgills, at the Northern Field day, at the Cumberland, Skelton and Penrith shows, at the marts, and in the street since then.


I am setting up a Young Farmers’ advisory committee in order to meet and talk regularly about the future of farming in Cumbria. Our focus will be on Cumbria’s unique needs. I am a real admirer of the NFU and would like to see it fight even harder in Government, but it is forced to represent farmers right across the country. Clearly a fenland Barley Baron has very different interests, views on subsidies and policy than a hill-farmer in Bewcastle; even within Penrith and the Border there are vast differences between dairy on the Solway plain and commons above Dufton. I am hoping that the Young Farmers’ group will help me to understand more about those different needs, so that I can fight our corner in Government. Farmers know more, care more and understand more about land management than any quango or civil servant. Government has to learn how to learn from farmers and benefit from their depth of experience, their passion and their common-sense. They have to learn to listen.”


Rory intends to work particularly hard on issues such as ensuring that a milk ombudsman has real powers; challenging new regulations like the EID tagging for sheep; and improving rural services from roads to rural transport systems to broadband, in order to ensure that the younger generations of farming communities are encouraged to continue living and farming in Penrith and the Border. He also considers it of vital importance that Cumbrian voices are heard in Brussels over the next two years, prior to the renewed Common Agricultural Policy in 2013.


Rory said: “We must make sure that Cumbrians are properly represented in that process. I will be working to persuade every DEFRA minister to visit Cumbria, plan to go to Brussels myself, and will be talking continually to groups like the Young Farmers’ advisory group to make sure I am carrying the right messages on their behalf”.