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Government Threatens To Pull Councils’ Broadband Funding

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Councils may lose their share of the government’s £530m in broadband funding if they delay rollouts, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned

Councils may lose their share of the government’s £530m investment in superfast broadband funding if they fail to sign broadband contracts by the end of 2012, according to a report in The Guardian.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt warned he may remove the funding from councils’ control if they fail to follow the government’s timetable for rolling out superfast broadband.

Contracts ‘must be signed’

“There is £530m on the table to help deliver this, but I have to had to say that if broadband contracts aren’t actually signed by the end of this year I will consider taking this back,” Hunt reportedly told the all party parliamentary group on local government. “I do not want this to get bogged down in paper procurement.”

Hunt said he is counting on local authorities to “head up” the broadband project.

“I have always been a committed localist,” he said. “I have always believed that we will solve the big problems in society if we harness the energy of the people at the grassroots, councils and their communities.”

In November 2010 the government said it would set aside £530m to ensure that 90 percent of households in each local authority could access superfast broadband, with the funding to be administered by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

Part of the funding has already been used to invest in fibre broadband projects in the Highlands and Islands, Cubria, North Yorkshire and the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, while another £49m of the funding has been earmarked to help ensure that homes and businesses across Wiltshire, Norfolk and Devon and Somerset will have access to superfast broadband connections.

Matched funding

Local councils must find their own funding to supplement the £530m BDUK funding from central government to push fibre into rural areas.

Regions across the UK have already been allocated their broadband funding from central government, but just before Christmas, English councils were warned they have until the end of February to submit their proposals. This comes after the Countryside Alliance criticised the lack of progress in rolling out superfast broadband in rural areas.