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Superfast broadband held up by EU red tape
MILLIONS of pounds of broadband improvements in rural Worcestershire are at risk of being delayed due to a farcical EU wrangle.
In May, County Hall won approval for £3.5 million from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a state body that funds quicker web access, mainly in rural areas.
But it cannnot be spent because BDUK has not secured approval from the European Commission’s Directorate General, an EU rubber-stamping body.
The EU has concerns that BDUK is not competitive because only two companies, BT and Futijsu, have signed up as suppliers.
BDUK has £530 million to use nationwide which can not be spent until the problem is resolved.
The issue was raised at a meeting of the environment and economy scrutiny panel at County Hall.
Chairman Councillor Ken Pollock said: “There’s been a gross underestimation of the time it will take to get this funding. We are talking hundreds of millions which has been allocated under BDUK, but it hasn’t been approved.
“An awful lot of excitement has been generated among parishioners in rural parts of Worcestershire, but there’s been a gross miscalculation.”
The Government was originally hoping for the scheme to go ahead in June.
Coun Emma Moffett said: “It’s so frustrating. We’ve got the tools, but aren’t being given the machinery to take it forward – with parliament going into recess now is the perfect time to pressure our MPs.”
Worcestershire County Council wants 90 per cent of properties to have superfast web speeds, seen as 30 megabits per second, by 2015.
After the meeting, Worcester MP Robin Walker said: “I’m very sympathetic and share their frustrations, we’ll do everything we can to find a solution.”
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said: “I see no reason why European rules should stop Worcestershire from putting the job out to tender and I have contacted the secretary of state’s office to confirm that in writing.”
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “We have provided the commission with all the information it has asked for and hope it will give a positive decision shortly.”