County ‘too late’ on broadband bid

SUFFOLK’S failure to get Government broadband funding when Norfolk gained £15 million has been branded a ‘fiasco’.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said on Tuesday: “I’m shocked and dismayed by the whole way this has been handled. With my fellow MPs I’m demanding an urgent post mortem on this fiasco.”

All the Suffolk MPs signed a letter urging the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK quango to give the county a share of the £530 million it had to dish out.

Mr Ruffley blamed Suffolk County Council’s ‘too little, too late’ funding promise. “Ministers were utterly unimpressed by Suffolk County Council’s initial failure to commit hard cash up front in the early stages,” he said.

“Norfolk, by contrast, was able early to promise £15 million which was matched.”

He said Norfolk had saved an earlier grant for such a strategic use while Suffolk had spent it on a ‘patchwork upgrade’ of school broadband.

Mr Ruffley added: “The controversy over the senior management at County Hall, in my view, made clear prioritisation difficult.”

He said he and Mid-Suffolk MP Dan Poulter were meeting BDUK to ask where Suffolk had failed so it could put things right for future bids. He also stressed the situation was not the fault of the county’s new leader Mark Bee, adding : “He tried to pull it round, but it was too late.”

Cllr0 Bee said: “We are hugely disappointed the Government has not yet recognised Suffolk’s need for better broadband and the serious financial and time commitment Suffolk’s broadband partnership has shown.

“My predecessor Jeremy Pembroke and I are absolutely committed to delivering improved broadband. The county council has already invested £11m in improving broadband infrastructure for schools. Despite the latest decision, we’ve had very positive feedback on our bid.”

Cllr Pembroke said: “My last act as leader was to increase the county council’s contribution to the overall fund, such was my commitment and enthusiasm to this vital cause.”

Andy Wood, chairman of Better Broadband for Suffolk said: “We believe the Suffolk bid was technically as good as any put forward. However we will be looking to see why the Suffolk bid was not as attractive as others and once we have that information we will aim to put that right.”

Norfolk County Council. leader Derrick Murphy said: “We submitted an ambitious bid to prove to the Government that Norfolk will not fulfil its potential unless broadband is rolled out across the county.”