Fujitsu has pulled out of the £40m tender to roll out superfast broadband across rural Cumbria. However, Computer Weekly has learned the supplier didn’t fully complete the bidding process.
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A council document, seen by a source, revealed the company had first submitted an incomplete bid earlier in the year, which Cumbria County Council publicly rejected. The document also showed the bid was accompanied by a letter admitting the tender had key information missing and was not going to be changed, making the bid null and void.
The council gave Fujitsu until September to do things properly, but instead the firm decided to pull out of the tender altogether.
A statement today from the technology firm said: “We withdrew from Cumbria because we cannot currently see a clear path towards the mass market that is required to attract leading retail service providers.”
But a statement from Councillor Elizabeth Mallinson – the council cabinet member responsible for the tender process – claimed the letter she received confirming the pull-out from the bid said, “Fujitsu’s reasons… [were] national rather than specific to Cumbria.”
Computer Weekly contacted Fujitsu for a response, but it had not returned our request at the time of publication.
With Fujitsu out of the bidding, BT is the only company left competing for the Cumbria contract, but according to our source, BT's bid had its own issues. The document said BT’s tender was “heavily coded with caveats” the council would have to adhere to which could place “undue risks on council funds.”
This proposal was also rejected at first, but without further competition from a rival bidder there may be little pressure for BT to shift its position and the council may have no other choice.
Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in south Cumbria, Tim Farron, has now entered the debate, calling for central government to step in and run rural broadband schemes, and claiming the council shouldn’t have given the bidders more time to change their ways after their initial tenders.
"This is another blow for the broadband project and sadly another self-inflicted blow by the county council,” he said. “This process has been going on for 18 months now and it's appalling that we've not been able to move any further.
“Securing the modern infrastructure our county needs should be one of the council's top priorities. I am happy to help the county council engage with the government to make sure that we can finally make the progress we all want to see."
We also contacted BT for comment but it too had not returned our request at the time of publication.
Reports in the Financial Times suggest that Fujitsu is set to lose another bid in North Yorkshire, with BT already internally known as the winning candidate.
A spokesman from the county council said an announcement about who will be awarded the contract is due next Tuesday, but he would not provide any more information before then.