Its often easy too bash local councils but I am of the belief that strong dynamic leadership at Council level can transform both local communties and local economies. The problems we have had getting the Lib Dem leaders of Northumberland County Council to push ahead on rural broadband provision are well documented and this bit of news recently caught my eye; A deal has been struck between O2 and two neighbouring councils - Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea - to provide free Wi-Fi across thier council areas.
It means that Europe’s largest free Wi-Fi zone will be established in time for the Olympics. Wi-Fi access points will be installed in street furniture, initially to a small number of areas, but eventually will entirely cover both boroughs. No cost is being incurred by the Council Taxpayer or central Government. In fact it will be a source of revenue for the Town Halls and will no doubt be a big help to economic regeneration.
Westminster City Council cabinet member for strategic finance Cllr Philippa Roe said:
“Westminster welcomes over a million tourists a day, is home to 250,000 residents, employs over half a million people and sees 4,000 business starts-ups each year. Next summer’s Olympic Games mean that London will be putting on the biggest show on earth and as Westminster has a starring role, visitors to London will easily be able to share their pictures and updates of the Olympic events across social networking sites.”
Now of course there are a million and one differences between affluent parts of London and our patch here in rural Northumberland but I do think it demonstrates the kind of innovative projects out there when you have a Council really pushing hard for them. The right leaders at County Hall can make a real difference.
Finally on the topic of rural broadband I am working with Vodafone and some residents in one of our villages to see if we can help deliver broadband to them using the network. Exciting stuff: I will keep you posted in the future.