Lib Dems turn down Government Broadband funding

Bath and North East Somerset Council has decided not to bid for Government funding to help improve broadband internet connections in the area.

Conservative Councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have criticised the decision by the council’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet not to bid for the Government cash, which would have helped deliver superfast broadband to authority’s rural areas.

The Government has allocated £530 million nationally to help deliver superfast broadband to areas which are unlikely to be met by commercial operators, and Conservatives had been pressing the council to take up the opportunity of working with Bristol and South Gloucestershire Councils to present a bid to Government to access some of this funding.

However, at a meeting last Wednesday, the authority’s Lib Dem Cabinet chose not to enter into the bidding process and will instead spend £25,000 to draw up a plan on improving local internet access.

Conservatives have slammed the decision and said it is sacrificing major Government funding and missing an important opportunity for the area. Conservatives have said they are concerned that £25,000 alone will not be enough to deliver the improvements needed without the Government investment.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said:

“This is a huge disappointment and a real missed opportunity for our area. Bath and North East Somerset could get left behind while other areas see superfast Broadband rolled out to all households. There is £1.4 million on offer to the West of England from Government, which B&NES will not now be able to access. Spending just £25,000 on drawing up a local plan for B&NES will simply not be enough to deliver the broadband infrastructure improvements needed.

“The inequality between our urban and rural areas when it comes to access to fast and reliable internet is now set to continue. This could prove really damaging to our local economy, as it’s easy to forget that good internet connections are just as important to small businesses in rural areas as they are to large companies in city centres. However, we won’t give up and Conservatives will be continuing to press the Council on the importance of this issue to our area.”