Digital investment crucial to sustain vibrant rural communities – Ceredigion MP Ben Lake

Ceredigion population declined by 5.8% between 2011 and 2021

Ceredigion MP Ben Lake has called for urgent action to address demographic changes for the long-term vitality of Welsh rural communities. Speaking in a parliamentary debate on 29 February, Mr Lake underscored the necessity of investing in digital connectivity as a crucial step towards building sustainable rural economies.

In his speech, the Plaid Cymru MP highlighted the concerning trend of young people leaving Ceredigion for study or work, resulting in a significant population decline of 5.8% – the largest decrease in Wales. He emphasised the urgent need for measures to ensure vibrant communities throughout the year, rather than being solely reliant on seasonal activity.

Ben Lake said that Plaid Cymru want “a vibrant economy through the year, where young people can expect to pursue exciting careers in the place in which they were born and raised.”

Mr Lake underlined the pivotal role of digital connectivity in rural economic development, and called for the prioritisation of rural areas in the Project Gigabit scheme to bridge the digital divide.


Speaking in the House of Commons, Ben Lake MP said:

“It has long been the case that young people who grow up in Ceredigion leave for study or for work and seldom come back. The 2021 census reported that, sadly, Ceredigion’s overall population has declined by some 5.8%, which is a remarkable figure, the largest decrease anywhere in Wales.

“Within those figures, there is a story of real change in the demographic make-up of Ceredigion: fewer young people—children and young adults—and therefore a higher proportion of the population over 65 years of age. Indeed, Ceredigion has a remarkable demographic make-up, in that 13% of its population are under the age of 15 and 25% are over the age of 65. That is a problem that we should be considering in both Westminster and Cardiff, because it has real consequences for the ability to deliver public services in an effective and appropriate manner.

“That also has something to do with the ability to ensure that we have vibrant communities. I do not want parts of Wales, be that in west Wales or elsewhere, just to become places that shut for half the year, only coming to life during the summer months. We want a vibrant economy through the year, where young people can expect to pursue exciting careers in the place in which they were born and raised.

“Ceredigion does not have a very good record when it comes to digital connectivity. Access to the internet has long been an essential, not a luxury, for people in the modern age, but our access to full gigabit broadband is constrained to just 37% of households compared with 76% for the UK as a whole, and 10.7% of households in Ceredigion receive broadband speeds below 10 megabits per second—the equivalent UK figure is 3.6% of households.

“Although progress has been made in recent years, much more needs to be done. Not only would that help to ensure that people can access essential services, which are increasingly going online, but it could prove a bit of a boost for the local economy. I am very pleased to say that some companies are looking to relocate their head offices to Ceredigion, in the few villages and towns where we do have full gigabit broadband, because, as long as they have access to the internet through a reliable full gigabit connection, they do not mind being in west Wales—in fact, it is an advantage, and that can be quite an advantage for us, too, if we are serious about developing the rural economy.

“Project Gigabit—the UK Government scheme—has been in existence for a few years now, but progress in rural areas is still too slow. In Ceredigion, we are still waiting to understand which premises will be connected in the next iteration of the scheme, and those who will not be connected will need to find alternative solutions. The sooner we have clarity, the better, because the quality of the lives and the services that can be accessed by those without connectivity are much diminished. If we could have greater prominence and priority for the connection of rural areas, I would be very grateful. More specifically, perhaps the Secretary of State could suggest to his Cabinet colleagues that they work outside-in for the next round of Project Gigabit, so that rural communities are connected first.”


In his response, the Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies MP, said:

“The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Ben Lake) mentioned gigabit connections. I agree with him that we need certainty on where they will be and that there are challenges in rural areas, but I would point out that in 2019 about 11% of properties had a gigabit connection and that has now increased to 69%. The work is going on at pace.”

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  • Elain Roberts
    published this page in News 2024-03-04 09:24:00 +0000

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