Political row breaks out over broadband funding

County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.

County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.

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Labour councillors in Northumberland have reacted with dismay over claims by Conservative group leader Peter Jackson that the decision by the council to ‘claw back’ over £700,000 in broadband funding to plug a gap in digital coverage in the most rural areas.

Councillor Jackson wrote to Labour group and council leader Grant Davey to complain the ‘claw back’ would ‘promote a county which is divided into haves and have nots’.

Now Councillor Davey has come out fighting accusing Conservative group leader of ‘scaremongering’, and has insisted that the ‘clawback’ was in response to concerns that BT would not roll out fibre optic schemes to the most rural areas because ‘it wouldn’t be cost effective’.

Councillor Davey went on to state: “If we don’t act then we will most definitely find our most rural areas frozen out of the broadband revolution. Councillor Jackson is once again, shooting from the lip and I’m sure Conservative councillors who represent rural wards will question the value of creating yet another scare story for party political purposes.”

Labour are pointing out if they follow the Conservative leader’s opinion then 700 rural homes face a ‘broadband shut out’.

Councillor Scott Dickinson, the Business Chair of the authority said: “We’re seeking to meet the potential gaps in coverage under the BT contract negotiated by the last administration and we think that by using the claw back from BT we can make broadband available to more rural locations than originally envisaged.

“It’s disappointing that Councillor Jackson and Northumberland Tories have picked this issue up to make political capital. This judgement call comes fast on the back of their rash pledge to find £100m to resurface all roads in the county.”

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