A decision on whether to bid for Government funding to improve local broadband connections has been delayed by Liberal Democrat-run Bath and North East Somerset Council.
The decision comes after a cross-party committee of backbench councillors urged the Liberal Democrat Cabinet to reverse its previous decision not to join a bid for the Government cash. At a public Cabinet meeting last Wednesday, the Lib Dem Cabinet agreed to ask for a new report to be presented to Cabinet at a later date with further technical information before a final decision is made.
However, no date has been set for when a final decision will be taken, sparking concerns that the council may miss the boat and be unable to access Government funding. Conservative councillors have been campaigning for B&NES to join with Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils in a bid for £1.4 million of Government investment to deliver superfast broadband throughout the area. Conservatives are now urging to Cabinet to take the decision to join the bid as soon as possible, and January at the latest.
Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said:
“If the Lib Dems stick to their decision not to invest in local broadband it will prove a serious blow to the economic competitiveness of our area and would leave thousands of residents without a fast, reliable internet connection.
“Local businesses, residents and Parish Councils have all urged B&NES to join with Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils in a joint-bid for Government funding. This investment would be used to deliver fibre-optic broadband throughout the authority, particularly benefitting rural areas and villages where internet speeds can be as low as 0.5mb. Yes, it will mean the Council also putting in its own funding alongside the Government, but the economic benefits it would bring far outweigh the costs.
“Conservative councillors are urging the Cabinet to agree to join this funding bid as soon as possible, before we miss the boat. Otherwise the inequality of service in many parts of our authority will continue and B&NES will be left trailing behind our neighbours as they invest in broadband infrastructure.”