Councils snub Government broadband funding

A pair of Tyneside councils have failed to file broadband plans with the DCMS

Nicole Kobie
8 Mar 2012

A pair of Tyneside councils have opted not take part in Government broadband funding.

All local authorities were supposed to file plans with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by the end of last month, showing how they intended to meet broadband targets of 90% superfast coverage.

Two councils - North and South Tyneside - have failed to submit their initial plans, with one saying it didn't want to apply for funds from the £530 million pot.

A spokeswoman for North Tyneside Council said BT and Virgin Media expect to cover 91% of the area before the 2015 deadline without additional Government investment.

North and South Tyneside seem blithely confident they will deliver world class digital infrastructure

"North Tyneside and South Tyneside have told the Government they will achieve 90% superfast broadband coverage through other means and have expressed no interest in using their allocated funding to go further," the DCMS said in a statement.

Any funds handed out by the DCMS must be matched by the council. North Tyneside was previously approved for £880,000 in funds, but opted to decline the money, with mayor Linda Arkey saying earlier this year that spending council money on upgrading the network was an unnecessary financial burden.

"In this instance, given the pressures on resources at the present time, we felt that the benefits of increasing the coverage of super-fast broadband across the remaining nine per cent of the borough would be limited and therefore a low priority when deciding how best to spend council taxpayers' money," she said.

The Government suggested the council's apparent dependence on private broadband investment may be misplaced.

"North and South Tyneside seem blithely confident they will deliver world class digital infrastructure - I just hope they are not being complacent," said culture minister Jeremy Hunt. "No one in the UK can afford to slack on making sure we have the best broadband network in Europe upon which so many of the jobs of the future depend.”

The DCMS said all other councils had filed plans, and five more had funding approved, meaning 40% of local authorities were now ready to start procurement on next-gen networks ahead of an April deadline.

South Tyneside Council has yet to respond to request for comment.

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