Net gains in prospect for all of county

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THE leader of Northumberland County Council has rubbished Tory accusations that the county is getting left behind the technology race.

Jeff Reid hit back at claims by Conservative opposition leader Peter Jackson that failing to apply for government funding for high speed broadband will adversely affect rural communities.

The coalition government has put aside £530m for developing high-speed broadband, with local authorities invited to make bids.

Coun Jackson had called Lib Dem administration’s failure to apply for the pilot scheme, and a second round of bids announced two weeks ago an “failure of judgement”.

He said: “Northumberland is stuck in the slow lane, even as our neighbours, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, are being given money to develop broadband provision in isolated properties and communities.

“The decision of the Lib Dem Administration not to apply for high speed broadband funding status is a mistake, and one that is all the more puzzling given that the Lib Dems tell local people that broadband is one of their top priorities.

“The result of their failure of judgement will be that rural small businesses are disadvantaged and that our county will continue to be left behind.”

However Coun Reid said that significant improvement to the physical and virtual connectivity of the whole county is the number one priority for the council, including access to super-fast broadband.

He said: “We have employed a specialist to put together a credible bid for the £19m it will take to produce the results we want.

“We deemed it a better use of time and money to take the time needed to put together a credible bid that had a realistic chance of success rather than throw together an ill-timed and ill-considered bid against an unrealistic deadline.

“We are more concerned about getting it right than getting it first.”

Coun Reid added: “The Tories have control of the county council’s scrutiny functions and use it to play politics, as in this instance.

“Perhaps if the proposal had not been held up by the prevarication of the Tories at every opportunity, we might now be further through the process. It’s time for the Conservative group to grow up.”