Suffolk: Broadband hopes in county dealt major blow

Suffolk’s ambition of being able to provide broadband access for all has been dealt a major blow after its bid for millions of pounds of Government funding failed.

The news was last night greeted with widespread disappointment from business, council and community leaders who had hoped the investment would improve broadband availability across the county.

But the Goverment is today to announce that the county’s �20million bid for funding from its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has been unsuccessful.

Had it proved successful, the investment would have been coupled with a further �20m from the private sector and �2m from other sources to deliver superfast broadband across Suffolk.

However, the Goverment is to announce that neighbouring Norfolk’s �15m bid has been approved.

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Last night, supporters of Suffolk’s bid spoke of their disappointment at the outcome.

Tim Passmore, chief executive of Choose Suffolk, said: “This is clearly a very bad day for Suffolk. We now need to look at the reasons why it was not approved and get it put right.”

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John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Shipping, said: “The chamber is deeply disappointed at this decision. Along with hundreds of businesses across Suffolk we have supported this campaign and the need to see our county have superfast broadband.”

Andy Wood, chairman of Better Broadband for Suffolk, New Anglia Enterprise Partnership and chief executive of Southwold brewery Adnams, said while he was disappointed with the outcome it was important to remember it was only the first round of funding and there would be other opportunities.

“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.”

Following the announcement criticism was levelled at the previous leadership of Suffolk County Council for not giving full financial backing to the bid.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter said: “We needed crucial financial support from the county council which we didn’t get under the previous leadership.

“A lot of businesses signed up for the bid but the council didn’t commit. I had three meetings with Jeremy Pembroke but he didn’t seem to understand the problem. We always thought that was the bid’s weakness.”

Last night, Mr Pembroke could not be contacted for comment but Mark Bee, new leader of Suffolk County Council, insisted the bid would be looked at to see how it could be improved.

“We will need to consider the feedback from BDUK and work with them to reshape our bid as necessary. We are confident that we will get the funding that we need following further discussions with BDUK.

“We remain committed to delivering improved broadband for the people of Suffolk.”

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