After learning last week that one of the more vocal rural broadband campaign groups – the Shropshire and Marches Rural Broadband Campaign, was pulling out of its partnership with Shropshire County Council – the Full Spectrum reached out to campaign spokesman Patrick Cosgrove.
According to Cosgrove, the problem is that Shropshire Council simply does not want to borrow its share of the £22m, and was in fact “pretty peeved” when it found out it had to match fund £11.38m, as it would divert attention from its deficit reduction strategy.
To be frank, there is more than a whiff of monumental cock-up to the situation, as well.
“They had originally been hoping for some Growth Fund money from the Marches LEP, but there was some sort of cock-up. They say that they and the LEP were badly advised by DCLG (the Department for Communities and Local Government) and were told that the first round of Growth money couldn’t be used for broadband infrastructure,” explains Cosgrove.
“It turns out that was wrong as it has been permitted for some counties. I think they’re hoping for some in the next round. In the meantime it leaves the three county MPs playing chicken with the Council as to who might blink first in finding or borrowing some money from ‘somewhere’, and Shropshire with no Phase 2. It really is a bit of a stalemate.”
As for the Shropshire and Marches campaigners, their withdrawal also means ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’ and a bit more attitude, clearly in evidence in its most recent bulletin, which said the government would bring the countryside “grinding to a halt” unless it worked with Shropshire Council leaders to end the impasse and stopped playing chicken over who blinks first.
“Rural residents and businesses deserve better than these antics,” said Cosgrove.
I have to say. I couldn’t agree more, and with an election on the way I wouldn’t want to be the candidate who has to doorstep voters in rural Shropshire.
But where on earth do you magic up £11.38m?