Broad backing for broadband and charities

Today I chaired a productive meeting which brought together the leaders and chief officers of Cambridgeshire councils to discuss, among other things, the distribution of £4.5 million pounds.

Originally Government were holding onto this money which had been gained by local public services meeting tough targets. But after campaigning we managed to get the Government to hand it back.

Unfortunately in the mean time many of the projects it had been earmarked for had either been stopped or not even started.

Untangling this mess as to how it would be spent and who got what could have degenerated into petty squabbles that gives Local Government a bad name and wastes so much time. Keeping the majority of the money together for a common project, that would benefit all the citizens of Cambridgeshire makes so much sense.

I was heartened therefore to see that immediately all but one of the councils around the table backed suggestions to look at how the money could best help our communities as a whole.

Details are still being agreed but the majority of the money will go to putting superfast broadband in the County with the rest going to other worthwhile social and health projects.

I will also be asking charitable and support organisations in Cambridgeshire to see how we can work better together. It might be that they can provide services in a much better way bringing further improvements for communities and extra income for their organisation.

Better broadband is vital for Cambridgeshire. It brings business, jobs and therefore opportunities and better quality of living. In turn this means less strain on our support services and charities freeing up their resources to deal with the most needy.

Indeed a report last year for Ofcom said the opportunities and potential benefits to older and disabled people offered by superfast broadband and the technology it brings with it are manifold. This included helping them achieve greater social and economic inclusion and engagement; prolonged independent living; increased physical and psychological health and wellbeing; and an increased sense of wellbeing and security.

It provides opportunities in our rural areas which in turn brings prosperity to some of the most deprived places in the county while reducing strain on services within our cities and towns.

Once the details have been worked out and agreed by the Cabinet I will provide further updates. But it is great to see councils, on the whole, doing what residents want. Working together to achieve the best outcomes.

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