Friday, 3 June 2011

Rural Broadband - and a bizarre failure by the Lib Dem Council

I am passionate about expanding rural broadband. It is vital not just for small businesses, tourism and everyday life, but also crucial for us to create proper Sustainable Rural Communities in the future. Sadly the local Council do not see it the same way. My job is to ensure that the constituency gets a fair deal and that I am fighting Hexham's corner.

To that end the conservative councillors and I have publicised the shocking decision of the Lib Dem Council who did not bother to apply for the government money that is available for broadband improvements. To fail in a government funding bid is one thing. Not even to apply smacks of pure incompetence. It is not like they did not have time - this is the second time these bids could have been made!

Internet access for isolated communities is crucial - we have some areas with total blackspots like the Upper North Tyne, Heddon on the Wall, Ingoe and others with very limited access. The coalition Government has made £530m available, to roll out super-fast broadband connections across the country by 2015.

Last week it was announced that Wiltshire, Norfolk, Devon and Somerset would share about £50m to help improve their local broadband service. We are being left behind - and bear in mind we, in rural Northumberland, are probably the most deserving. It is very disappointing.

The Council's Lib Dem executive member, Roger Styring, has admitted that it was a conscious decision not to seek the funding. I have yet to understand how numerous other Council's were able to submit full and successful bids, yet according to Cllr Styring, Northumberland Council could only have managed 'putting in half a bid' so did nothing at all and did not bother applying. This is hardly rocket science.

Dave Black has written a good report of this latest Lib Dem disaster in The Journal: