A regional newspaper has won universal praise for its latest campaign to win better mobile phone coverage for a county trapped in a communications’ black hole.
The Shropshire Star is taking the fight to Westminster – demanding government action to tackle the problem which blights business and home users in large parts of the mainly rural region.
The daily’s Get Us Connected petition will urge Culture Secretary Sajid Javid to apply pressure on to the main phone networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – for an improved service to tackle the crisis.
All five of the area’s MPs – Owen Paterson, David Wright, Mark Pritchard, Daniel Kawczynski and Phillip Dunne – are joining Shropshire Council in throwing their weight behind the Star’s battle plan.
Campaign supporter Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said: “The Shropshire Star has been pinpointing and supporting campaigns over the years which has kept them going and have been effective, such as the M54 Shrewsbury road sign and the direct Shropshire to London rail link.
“I hope this is going to be the next one that the paper doggedly pursues and gets the result.
“This is a hugely important issue and I will support the Shropshire Star in its campaign. This is a really serious outstanding issue.”
Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow said he was delighted the paper is “working with us to get a solution” as the authority puts copies of the petition in all of its libraries.
He added: “We need to work together with this, because if we work in isolation we would not get the same results and response we are getting.”
Shropshire politicians, residents and businesses have bemoaned poor mobile phone coverage across the county. And the message from the region’s MPs has been clear – we deserve a better service.
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson – a former Environment Secretary – voiced his concerns, saying the lack of signal was affecting businesses in the county.
Shropshire Chamber of Commerce is urging businesses to back the Star’s campaign.
Chief executive Richard Sheehan said that a unified voice for the county was necessary to demonstrate the strength of feeling among frustrated mobile users all over Shropshire – with the vast majority of county businesses employing 10 people or fewer, and many based in rural areas or in people’s homes.
He added: “We are delighted that the initiative has been taken on this issue. It’s fantastic that it is being driven forward as it’s an issue that is close to our hearts.
“By coming together we are stronger and more likely to achieve a positive outcome.”
Shropshire Star editor Martin Wright agrees the “huge issue” is affecting thousands of people.
“We have had a big response from readers since we launched the campaign,” he said. “It sends a message that the situation must change.
“Shropshire needs an effective mobile phone signal if it is to thrive commercially and families also rely on it keep in touch with loved ones.
“We are pleased Councillor Barrow is backing the petition. He is right in saying this is not a political issue, but something the county can unite behind.”