Breckland supports broadband campaign

Breckland Council is the latest authority to throw its support behind the EDP and Norfolk County Council's Broadband: Back the Bid campaign.

At a cabinet meeting yesterday leader William Nunn filled in one of our campaign forms, detailing how he, the council and his constituents are affected by poor quality broadband, and encouraged members of the council to do the same.

The issue was raised during a discussion about the production of the council magazine Breckland Voice which goes out to every household in the district, guaranteeing 100 percent penetration.

Currently the magazine is produced six times a year but a new Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity states that any newsletters or similar communications should not be issued more than quarterly.

However with such a patchy broadband coverage in Breckland as well as many residents not owning computers the council was concerned that without Breckland Voice they would not have access to much-needed information.

While proposing keeping the frequency of publication at six per year spokesman Dominic Chessum also asked that members approve a change to the recommendation to publicly include support for our campaign.

A report to the committee said: 'Whilst digital media is a growing opportunity to engage with residents and broaden our coverage to a wider age and demographic range many people experience difficulties in accessing the internet or prefer to use more traditional media.'

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Councillor Mark Kiddle-Morris said two villages in his constituency had no broadband coverage at all. 'Access to our website for them is non-existent but these are not just isolated incidents, there are large pieces of Breckland in this situation.'

Bill Smith said that residents satisfaction with the council depended on the quality and quantity of information they received. 'Voice plays an important part in enhancing our performance with regards the satisfaction of residents,' he said. 'If we went to four issues it would leave information out of date. We should support the EDP and county council campaign as well.'

Adrian Stasiak said the council needed to make residents aware of particular issues, such as changes to housing benefit. 'We need to have better broadband coverage so I support the campaign fully.'

While approving the recommendation members also gave their support to a new service to complement the council's website.

GovDelivery is a software service system which allows customers to receive information on specific council services they are interested in. It is widely used in the US and the UK and in Norfolk is used both by the county council and Norwich City Council.

Mr Chessum explained that when the council website is updated GovDelivery checks for changes and sends the information directly out to the residents who requested it, for example bin collections or holiday activities for children.

'It will engage with people who are time-poor and give them information they want, when they want it before they even know it exists.'

Mr Nunn said that while on one hand they accepted many people did not have broadband in Breckland they still had to embrace new technology and make it as simple as possible for people to contact them.

Philip Cowen said it was vital to be able to communicate with residents and for them to be able to come back with issues that concern them.

'This may be an opportunity for people to raise issues with us in a far easier and meaningful way.'