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Gloucestershire Council Suspend Broadband Funding for the Cotswolds

Saturday, March 5th, 2016 (7:54 am) - Score 1,030
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At least part of the on-going effort to roll-out superfast broadband (24Mbps+) services in the Cotswolds, which is a rural area that predominantly straddles both Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, has been halted after Gloucestershire Council suspended £500,000 of its joint funding.

The situation is not due to problems with any of the local broadband projects (there are several of them from different councils), but rather stems from a dispute over last week’s controversial proposal for the Cotswold District Council to merge with the West Oxfordshire District Council (aka – Coxit) and thus control many of their own services (unitary authority).

Apparently the Gloucestershire County Council are unhappy about this and are concerned that their proposed £500,000 investment into the Cotswolds, which under the January 2016 budget was due to be matched by the Cotswold District Council (total project value of £1m), could end up going to an area that they no longer govern.

Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem Councillor for the Cotswolds, said (here):

“I’m told by a senior officer that the broadband project for the Cotswolds has been suspended while the county council understands what this new devolution proposal means.”

Last week the leader of Gloucestershire County Council, Mark Hawthorne, spoke of his “great disappointment that [Coxit] had been proposed” and warned that it threatened to “rip Gloucestershire in half.”

The Cotswolds straddle several local authorities and so even at the best of times it can become a bit confusing, although we understand that the latest funding commitment has not yet been finalised and seems unlikely to affect any of the existing contracts that are already rolling out in the area.

At present the existing Fastershire project between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire is already rolling out BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to 90% of local premises by the end of 2016 and Gloucestershire are also supporting a £10m contract with Gigaclear to deploy a 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to 6,495 premises in the Cotswolds.

However further funding was also in the process of being set aside to help fill the remaining gaps and this seems to be what will be affected by today’s news.

Extract from Gloucestershire’s Jan 2016 Budget

“The approved programme also includes £11.7 million for Broadband (Fastershire). The amount of resource required to deliver Stage 3 (Lot 2) of the revised Broadband Strategy has increased with the recent announcement that Gloucestershire has been awarded an additional £2 million through the South West Ultrafast deployment fund. However, this requires additional match funding from the Council of £2 million.

Within the current capital programme £24.5 million has been approved for the LED street lighting project, financed by grant and capital receipts. The LED Street Lighting scheme now only requires £22.5 million following a successful procurement process, which achieved lower prices for equipment than had been expected and reflected lower market price of technology as it has developed and become more widely used. It is therefore proposed that the 2016/17 capital programme transfers £2 million of approved funding from the LED Street Lighting scheme to the Broadband scheme, which would then have total approval of £13.7 million.”

On the one hand Gloucestershire’s decision may seem petty and will only disadvantage those people living and working in the Cotswolds area. On the other hand it’s perhaps only a natural reflection of the significant austerity cuts that many councils are facing (i.e. they can’t afford to give public investment away to other authorities, assuming that is the outcome with Coxit).

In that sense Gloucestershire has chosen to wait and see what impact the Coxit proposal will have before making any firm commitments in their future budget for the area. However others would argue that until such a proposal is approved then they should perhaps continue to work as normal and build contingency for a split into any relevant contracts.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve Jones

    Having just moved to Charlbury in west Oxfordshire, the locals are not exactly happy with what they see as an arbitrary administrative change which they see as undermining local regional identity. Roots run deep there.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      I’ve hardly ever been to anywhere in the Shires where that isn’t so. It doesn’t mean they don’t look out for their own financial interests though!

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Having been raised in Berkshire at the busy end of the Thames Valley I can say for sure it doesn’t have the same sense of local identity. Perhaps once you get west of Reading, but not much to the east.

  2. Avatar Captain.Cretin

    Everyone should do what we did and refuse to acknowledge the change.

    When Herefordshire and Worcestershire were combined, we all ignored it, those in Herefordshire kept using their name on all correspondence, and those in Worcestershire did the same.

    Eventually we gout our counties back, although it took a few years.

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