Government criticised for re-announcing same broadband cash for third time

Investment in fibre broadband announced in November, March and now again in July

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Monday 03 July 2017 13:55

The Government has been criticised for re-announcing the same money to improve broadband speed three times over the last half year, in a bid to generate positive headlines.

The £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment fund was first trailed in the media a few days before the Autumn Statement in late November last year, before being officially announced by the Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Further headlines appeared in March when the same cash was announced around the Spring Budget.

Now in July, the Treasury is announcing the fund again, with junior Treasury minister Andrew Jones holding a launch event in Peterborough on Monday. The event was again briefed out to news organisations on Sunday afternoon.

The Treasury confirmed that the money was the same money as had been previously announced.

The fund will be managed by private sector partners and the Government hopes it can raise an additional £1bn in capital.

Mr Jones, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, is expected to say: “We are investing £400m to make sure the UK’s digital infrastructure is match-fit for the future. As technologies change and people’s habits move with them, it is crucial we play our part to ensure Britain stays at the front of the pack.

“Gone will be the days where parents working from home see their emails grind to a halt while a family member is gaming or streaming Game of Thrones in the next room. Full fibre will provide us with the better broadband we need to ensure we can work flexibly and productively, without connections failing.”

But Louise Haigh, Labour’s shadow digital economy minister, told The Independent that the re-announcement showed a lack of new policy thinking in government.

“This shows the paucity of the Government’s strategy and vision for digital infrastructure in this country that they’ve had to re-announce the same policy three times,” she said.

“Businesses and individuals across the country are dependent on reliable internet, and the Government’s lack of progress is undeniably holding the economy back.”

Conservative MP Grant Shapps chair of the cross-party British Infrastructure Group of MPs, said: “BIG welcomes the Digital Infrastructure Fund, which promises a £400 million investment in broadband connectivity. However, it is now vital that instead of re-announcing this Fund again for the third time, the Government starts to focus on how this investment can actually improve broadband speeds and accessibility across the UK as a whole.”

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