‘Join Somerset’ for Broadband bid – B&NES urged

Bath and North East Somerset council is being called upon to join with Somerset County Council in a last ditch attempt to secure Government funding to improve the area’s Broadband internet connections.

Conservative councillors in the area are calling on the authority’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet to take an urgent decision at its public Cabinet meeting this Wednesday to join Somerset Council’s BDUK bid, or risk losing the funding opportunity altogether.

The calls come following South Gloucestershire Council’s decision to join with Wiltshire and Swindon councils for its Broadband bid instead of B&NES. This decision came after Lib Dem-run B&NES Council decided to opt-out of the bidding process and decline an offer from Government for South Gloucestershire, Bristol and B&NES Council to work together to secure £1.4 million of Broadband investment.

This decision has left B&NES looking for an alternative partner-council if it is to join a bid for Government broadband funding. Conservative councillors have said that this means the only viable option is for B&NES Council to join with Somerset County Council, which has already embarked upon the bidding process.

Councillor Francine Haeberling, B&NES Conservative Group Leader, said:

“The Government has made it clear to councils that they only have until the end of February to make a decision on whether or not to bid for investment to improve local broadband connections. This means that this is B&NES Council’s last chance to take up this Government offer.

“With the option of joining our West of England partners no longer available, we are therefore calling on the Cabinet to take an urgent decision to join with Somerset County Council in their Broadband plan. This now appears to be the only viable option left open to B&NES.

“If this does not happen and the opportunity is missed then B&NES will be left behind all our neighbouring local authorities as they invest in Superfast Broadband. Not only do we need to address the inequality of access decent internet connections in our area, but in the years ahead it will become increasingly vital to our local economy for businesses to have access to fast, reliable broadband. B&NES must not miss this chance.”