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Bath and North East Somerset Council Reconsider Broadband Funding Rejection

Posted: 07th Dec, 2011 By: MarkJ
UK Department of Culture, Media and Sportbath_and_north_east_somerset_council.gifThe Liberal Democrat dominated Bath & North East Somerset Council (BNESC) has confirmed that it will officially reconsider last month's rejection of £670,000 in UK government funding (here), which had been earmarked to help boost the regions superfast broadband services.

At the time BNESC claimed that the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) backed scheme was too expensive and would have required the council to invest £1m of its own funds alongside the £670k. Instead BNESC proposed spending £25,000 to explore alternatives.

Opposition politicians soon warned that the decision risked "sacrificing an important opportunity" and were subsequently able to force an official review (here). The two week call-in process, which was conducted by a cross-party panel of seven backbench councillors with public input, has now unanimously called for the rejection of BDUK funds to be officially reconsidered.

The Chair, Robin Moss and Vice Chair, Ben Stevens, said:

"It has been a very useful process as the amount of extra information from local people and local businesses has really added to the initial Cabinet report. The Panel unanimously decided to refer the matter back to the Cabinet as a result."

As a result the cabinet has been told to look into improved impact assessments including an equalities impact statement as well as additional economic and business assessments. The cabinet must also consult the wider community and provide a full cost benefit analysis.

The downside is that some of this additional work is likely to slow the process and add additional costs, although much of what is being requested would have been used by BDUK anyway. The Cabinet must now respond to the panels request and give reasons for their decision. A further meeting is to be held today at 18:30 in Keynsham Town Hall.
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