To consider South Holland District Council’s contribution to the roll out of Superfast Broadband across South Holland. (Report of the Deputy Leader of the Council and the Executive Director Commercialisation (S151) enclosed.)
Consideration was given to the joint report of the Deputy Leader of the Council and the Executive Director Commercialisation (S151) which sought a decision in respect of South Holland District Council’s contribution to the roll out of Superfast Broadband across South Holland with between 95% and 97% coverage.
Members were reminded that the council had signed up in principle to a county wide programme with BDUK which provided match funding. A memorandum of agreement had been signed which set out the principles of the agreement and £606,910 had been included within the budget, though it had been hoped that a lower contribution would be sufficient.
The first phase had been successful and had seen an underspend against the anticipated budget. It was, however, proposed that the Council still contribute the full budget allocated in order to extend the coverage to an anticipated 95%.
Councillor R Gambba-Jones stated the importance of a clear message in that the council was working to provide the infrastructure to enable members of the public to potentially connect to superfast broadband and not actually be provided with direct access as it was down to members of the public to find their own provider in order to connect to the system.
Councillor M G Chandler advised that it was vitally important for the business community and for the rural areas within South Holland to have access to the service. He requested assurance that the authority would be receiving value for money.
Councillor C N Worth pointed out that there had been a phenomenal improvement since the work had started in 2011 and that there would be a further improvement by the end of the programme.
Councillor R Gambba-Jones requested that the Leader and Deputy Leaders use their influence at Government level to encourage developers to provide fibre in new properties. The Lord Porter of Spalding stated that it was not compulsory to install gas and electric into properties and therefore fibre would be similarly treated unless it had a unique selling point.
The Lord Porter of Spalding questioned the fact that the Council was being asked to contribute the full amount despite there being a saving against the budget. As the basis for the decision had shifted he questioned whether Council approval was required. The Executive Manager Governance explained that it was an executive decision as the full amount requested was within the policy framework and budget. The Interim Executive Manager Growth and Prosperity advised that there would be an implication to reducing the Councils contribution in respect of having to pay BDUK back any match funding, pound for pound.
The Chief Executive stated that the contract was not controlled or owned by the Council. It would be for the Council to seek to obtain the best terms it could. She advised that it was necessary to consider the remote areas that were disadvantaged and that the Council’s contribution should be made with assurance from Lincolnshire County Council that the service would be extended to the remote areas of the district in addition to supporting the business needs of the local economy.
a) That a contribution of £606,910 be made to Lincolnshire County Council in respect of the roll out of Superfast Broadband in the District;
b) That as a result of the contribution assurance be sought from Lincolnshire County Council and BDUK that the Council’s funding would ensure that the service be extended to the remote areas of the district in addition to supporting the business needs of the local economy; and
c) That authority be delegated to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Commercialisation, to negotiate contractual terms with Lincolnshire County council and other authorities in Greater Lincolnshire and to release the payment when negotiations had been satisfactorily concluded.
(Other options considered:
· Not to approve the recommendation; or
· To approve the recommendation without amendments.
Reasons for decision:
· The programme had substantially completed with 90.03% of the total premises completed by the end of 2015 compared to a target of 90%.
· Delivery in South Holland had, as far as could be ascertained, equalled or exceeded that in other Districts with the exception of East Lindsey.
· There was a significant underspend on the current programme which would allow additional investment in Phase 2.
· The programme had delivered its primary target and there was potentially substantial further investment into the broadband infrastructure for South Holland.)