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27 May 2011, 05:00
One of our council's has just been told they are getting millions of pounds of government funding for better broadband.
The government has agreed to match a bid made by Norfolk County Council of £15m pound-for-pound.
The County Council submitted a bid to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) in April for a share of a £530 million national fund held to improve broadband availability having made tackling poor broadband a top strategic priority.
Now the council has been informed that its bid is one of the first in the country to get it. The council hopes to award a contract with a supplier by September 2012 with work on the ground starting shortly after.
Norfolk County Council’s bid was one of three (of 18 submitted by councils across the country) to be given the go ahead today. The other successful councils were Wiltshire and a joint bid by Devon and Somerset. The successful authorities share in a funding pot totalling £50m.
Derrick Murphy, Leader of Norfolk County Council, described today’s announcement as one of the most significant made in Norfolk in recent years - and on a par with news that the A11 is to be dualled.
He 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. I am absolutely delighted that our ambition for Norfolk not to get left behind in the internet slow lane has been positively recognised today.
With the internet central to virtually every aspect of modern life, our lack of broadband access has become a key concern for us. We simply could not afford to accept this, which is why we seized the opportunity for funding so firmly and backed our bid with hard cash."
Independent research commissioned by the County Council shows the ‘Better Broadband for Norfolk’ project bid would create an additional 1,337 jobs and boost the county’s economy by £401m over 10 years.
Ann Steward, Cabinet member for Economic Development, said: "Improving the broadband network in Norfolk is one of the best investments we could make in value for money terms to ensure the future economic success of our county. That’s why we moved decisively to ensure substantial funds are available to deliver a broadband network that will put Norfolk in the fast lane - and help to keep us there. We have a strong team ready to deliver an exciting project which will bring a major boost to our businesses.
We hope it will attract more to come to Norfolk, as we know high speed broadband availability is a key driver for decision-making by investors. Today’s announcement is therefore good news for Norfolk in terms of investment, growth and jobs.
They say actions speak louder than words and I believe that by identifying significant capital funds at a time when finances are extremely tight we have been able to convince decision makers that our very strong case deserves recognition.
We have also been able to demonstrate the universal support that exists to get our county better broadband connected. A lot of hard work lies ahead, but we have been given the best possible start. I am confident we will deliver this project in a way that will have substantial, far reaching and long term benefits."
Ian Mackie, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet member for Finance and Performance, added: "During our conversations with BDUK we stressed both the significant financial commitment of £15m the County Council has offered to provide better broadband and our strong track record in successfully delivering major procurement projects with high calibre staff.
We have clearly successfully demonstrated that improved broadband is a top priority for the council and the local business community. What is good for business is good for local jobs and I am delighted that this significant level of funding, using part of our Norfolk Infrastructure Fund, will deliver positive social outcomes in our large rural county. This investment will have a major impact for years to come."
With £30m available from the County Council and BDUK the council will look to a private sector partner in order to realise the council’s ambition to make widespread superfast broadband available across the county by the end of March 2015.
Suffolk County Council also bid for a share of the government money, however, even though they haven't been given it this time, they should in the future. The County Council in Suffolk has also already invested more than £400,000 into better broadband for the county.