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Suffolk's broadband snub

PUBLISHED: 10:34 27 May 2011

BUSINESS and community leaders have expressed their bitter disappointment after Suffolk was denied funding for superfast broadband - while Norfolk receives £15m towards the project.

The decision immediately led to accusations that Suffolk had “missed the boat” because the previous leadership at the county council had failed to commit enough financial backing to its bid.

Hopes had been high that Suffolk was in a good position to secure £20m from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to help the county fulfil its ambition of providing broadband access for all.

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 – providing a major boost for those in rural parts of Waveney and other areas where there is limited access to the internet.

However, last Friday, the government confirmed Suffolk had missed out while Norfolk’s had secured £15m.

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.”

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: “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... Only since (new council leader) Mark Bee has come on board has it committed any serious level of funding. The previous leadership missed the boat.”

Mr Pembroke could not be contacted for comment but Mr Bee, who was formally declared county council leader last Thursday, insisted the bid would be looked at to see how it could be improved.

He said: “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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