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Council slams use of £4m charity pot to fund superfast broadband

Council slams use of £4m charity pot to fund superfast broadband
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Council slams use of £4m charity pot to fund superfast broadband5

Finance | Vibeka Mair | 22 Sep 2011

Cambridge City Council has criticised Cambridgeshire County Council for planning to divert around £4m of government money originally earmarked for the voluntary sector to fund super-fast broadband, without consulting charities in the area first.

The £4m in funds is from the government’s Local Public Service Agreement (LPSA) with Cambridgeshire County Council.

A first tranche of £4.5m of funds from the LPSA went on a variety of social projects in Cambridgeshire, with much of the funds going to the voluntary sector.

However, a second tranche of £4.5m was initially cancelled last summer by the coalition government. However, Cambridgeshire managed to claw back the funds from government after a campaign from local councils in the area.

But now, Cambridge City Council has condemned the County Council’s plans to use £4m of the funds on a superfast broadband project, leaving £500,000 for social projects, without consulting the voluntary sector.

The leader of Cambridge City Council, Sian Reid, told civilsociety.co.uk: “The voluntary sector is experiencing great difficulty with an increase in demand for their services, a decline in income from investment and donations, and the threat of cuts in public funding. And I have said that this decision should not be made without consulting the voluntary sector and others in our local strategic partnership. This money was earned in partnership and should be spent in partnership.”

She added that the decision had been taken so the County Council could reduce its borrowing charges on broadband.

“Faster broadband will happen anyway. The funding won’t make a difference, but it will reduce the County Council’s borrowing for the project.”

Broadband will 'do the most good'

However, Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates, cabinet member for growth and planning, said better broadband would bring business to the area - leading to a better quality of life and less strain on the voluntary sector:

"I am pleased that the majority of councils and public bodies across Cambridgeshire could come together and find a way to spend this money that will do the most good for all our communities," he said. "It is what residents expect of their councils.

"Better broadband is vital for Cambridgeshire. It brings business, jobs and therefore opportunities and better quality of living. In turn this means less strain on our support services and charities freeing up their resources to deal with the most needy."

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said the move was supported by district council leaders from Huntingdonshire, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire, as well as the Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire NHS.

He added: “Unfortunately, many of the projects the £4.5m had been earmarked for had either been stopped or not even started, making it difficult to share out the rest.”

Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet is expected to vote on the plans next week.

 

Richard Molineux
consultant
molineux fundraising
27 Sep 2011

Lots of people outside the larger cities have no access to the sort of broadband speed that the urban lot take for granted. This means small businesses cannot compete properly, any amount of interesting stuff takes for ever to be downloaded, and entire areas of the country are cut off from what is now regarded as normal life by all classes of society. It is deeply luddite and wierdly bigotted to portray the countryside as inhabited only by the very rich. I love the idea that the people of Cambridge city are all moderate lib dems and a few other "good" odds and sods, who deserve proper connectivity and the countryside is full of the super-rich who don't deserve it. The really rich have work-arounds anyway.

Stephen Lulsley
Independent Commentator and Consultant
26 Sep 2011

Conservative government, Conservative council. QED!

Jeff Mowatt
Director
People-Centered Economic Development
25 Sep 2011

Last year the Forest of Dean acquired £160k funding from RDPE for a broadband task group and as director of a social enterprise advocating a 'community interest' approach, I'd been invited to participate and accepted on a voluntary basis.

That invitation was soon revoked with the appointment of a cabinet member for economic development to lead the group. With community driven options excluded the task group proceeded to conclude that upgraes to BT equipment were the way forward. We never found out how the money was spent.

When it comes to government ideals of Big Society and social enterprise, there's a clear division betwewn that which is supported by public funding, for example the NHS and that which has commercial potential and more importantly, potential to fund social innovation.

Clearly we represent a threat to vested commercial interests and perhaps the greatest tragedy is that could by now have been generating large scale investment for community development.

Malcolm
22 Sep 2011

Did you mean the Tory voting travellers who have over-run Cottenham or the Tory voting migrant workers in the Cambridgeshire fens?

Ed
22 Sep 2011

This is British politics in microcosm - the moderate people of the city of Cambridge consistently vote Lib Dem, with a bit of Labour & Green - but the super-rich 'country folk' living in massive houses, on huge plots of land in pretty little thatched-roof villages on the outskirts of Cambridge vote Tory.

So, with a nod and a wink, the Tory government give £4.5m of central tax-payers money to a Tory County Council - and they spend it on making sure rich people living in big houses in the country get superfast broadband, and the poor and the vulnerable, the children & the elderly, the disabled and the homeless of Cambridge, get shafted.

This is essentially what happens in the whole of the UK.

Don't believe the spin; the Tories haven't changed - they are still the nasty party.

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