Breckland Council’s £950,000 broadband investment prompts ‘town versus country’ debate

Breckland councillor Terry Jermy.  Photo: Sonya Duncan Breckland councillor Terry Jermy. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Thursday, July 17, 2014
3:47 PM

A decision to invest £950,000 of public money to improve Breckland’s broadband infrastructure prompted a “town versus country” argument among councillors.

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The district council gave its formal approval to invest the money, in order to bring superfast internet speeds to thousands more homes and businesses which won’t be reached by private-sector projects.

Labour group leader Terry Jermy, who represents the Saxon ward in Thetford, agreed with the cabinet’s earlier recommendation to invest, but said the people in his town had questioned why the investment was needed.

He said: “I greatly support rural communities and when we talk about infrastructure, our rural areas can often be forgotten. But I represent a town, and I know very little about living in a rural area. I have spoken to those people and I have listened to our rural representatives, but I stand by my principle concern, which is that I don’t see how it can be appropriate that so much taxpayers’ money is being spent on this.”

The Tory-controlled council’s leader Michael Wassell said: “I find it quite sad that the leader of the opposition sees himself as a representative of a town. He needs to represent the whole of Breckland.

“A lot of the areas covered by this money will be in towns, including our biggest town. So it is not about investing in rural. It is about investing in the district.”

Councillor Philip Cowen added: “Every one of our representatives on this district council relies on the internet and the rural areas are exceedingly badly served. This is a chance to do something for the people we represent, and this money represents a drop in the ocean against what we have spent in urban areas, and in particular in Thetford.”

Mr Jermy responded by saying it was “very sad” that the discussion had descended into a “village versus town” argument.

He said: “I have no issue with serving ‘one Breckland’. I have a role as the leader of the opposition, but I also have a role as a Thetford ward councillor. I have spoken to a lot of people who are totally against us spending this money, but I have decided on balance that it is something we need to do.”

After the recommendation was agreed, Mr Wassell said: “We see this as an essential investment in the future prosperity of the district, ensuring the maximum superfast broadband benefit for Breckland.”

Breckland has already benefited from the £41m Better Broadband for Norfolk programme which will give 80pc of properties access to high speed broadband of 24 Mbps (megabits per second) and above by December 2015.

The £950,000 approved by Breckland earlier today will ensure the deployment can extend to the most difficult to reach homes and businesses.

5 comments

  • I see Mr Arrogant himself "M. Wassell" states that Terry Jermy "needs to represent the whole of Breckland". So that means Mr Arrogant would put Breckland District Council before us poor soles in Watton. Lets just hope he doesn't bother to stand at next years elections or if he does people see him for what he is. He, in my opinion is the worst thing that has happened to Watton Town Council let alone Breckland. I did hear there was an undercover movement to oust him from Breckland some of the people putting it together he must have thought were his allies. Still what you give out you must expect back. Things do catch up with you in life.

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    Sandra Osborn

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • I think Councillor Terry Jermy was correct to question an issue that his Town residents have asked him to, but it also prompts another question. When Councillors are dual if not triple hatted which do they put first. If an issue up for debate and action were to be favorable to their DistrictCounty Council but be against the best interest for their Ward which way should a Councillor vote?

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    Sandra Osborn

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • The article relating to the broadband debate at Breckland Council that appeared in Fridays EDP edition did not clearly outline my position regarding the proposal. I objected to nearly £1million pounds of Breckland taxpayers money being used and in effect, letting BT off the hook. I support wholeheartedly investment in our rural communities and have campaigned for such for many years, but, BT is a private company, still making millions and millions of pounds in profit - why are taxpayers picking up what should be their priority? in addition to the £1million from Breckland and £15 million from the County Council, there's more public money flowing into this and a proportionally small contribution from BT- how can this be justified?. I was told on Thursday by the Conservative Chairman of the Council, who twice interrupted my contribution that my concerns regarding the housing issues that exist in Breckland and demand for services such as foodbanks were not relevant to the debate. How can the fact that so much public money being spent on broadband at a time of mass austerity be justified when BT could be quite easily paying a greater share? Predictably, Tory Councillors framed the debate as Labour objecting to investment in rural communities, which couldn't be further from the truth.

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    CllrTerryJermy

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Unfortunately, this article does not mention that I and other Labour Party members voted for this proposal. We support greater broadband and other infrastructure provision for rural communities. I raised the point that mobile phone coverage in rural areas is equally an issue and needs to be addressed. What I object to is £1million of Breckland money being spent on something that BT, a private company, should be providing - they are afterall still a multi-million pound profitable company. There are considerable challenges across the District that need to be addressed, I highlighted housing and the increasing use of foodbanks as two examples today - Breckland Council chooses not to address these matters, which is a great shame. I was interrupted twice by the Chairman of the meeting who said that housing and foodbanks were not relevant to the debate - well, I'm sorry but spending £1million on this whilst simultaneously ignoring other very pressing issues is an entirely relevant point. Conservative members expected us to object to this today and prepared this whole Town Vs. Rural area argument in advance and they weren't too sure what to criticise when we said that we supported this.

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    TJUK2011

    Thursday, July 17, 2014

  • OK Cllr Jermy, next time £100,000s of my rural taxpayers money is spent on development projects in your urban areas just for it to be ruined and run down by the ungrateful residents that live there within 5 years, I'll make sure my rural councillor objects it.

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    Panda

    Thursday, July 17, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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