By Mark Jackson, ISPreview UK | July 7th, 2014
The Government has today announced an investment of £6bn to help fund the first wave of 39 new Growth Deals with businesses and local authorities across England, which among other things will also bring new money to build new homes and improve the coverage of superfast broadband services alongside the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
The new Local Growth Deals, which will eventually benefit from a total investment of up to £12bn, are designed to support local businesses and residents by helping to train young people, build new homes and supporting key infrastructure projects (e.g. transport and superfast broadband development).
A lot of the investment will be going towards Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), although as the housing programme suggests it’s not solely designed to benefit businesses and local authorities + LEPs will have some flexibility in how it is spent.
The first £2bn worth of projects are due to begin between 2015-16 and the Government’s money is then expected to be match-funded with local investment, which could double the total. A key part of this will include more funding for broadband networks in “areas where provision is not currently available, such as remote areas of the North East“.
David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, said:
“Growth Deals are a crucial part of our long-term plan to secure Britain’s future. For too long our economy has been too London-focused and too centralised. Growth Deals will help change all that. They are about firing up our great cities, towns and counties so they can become powerhouses.
By trusting local people, backing business and investing in infrastructure, skills and housing, we can create thousands of new jobs. And that means more economic security, peace of mind and a brighter future for hardworking people across the country.”
Precise details of how the broadband side of this new investment will work seem to vary between the different projects (listed at the link above), although most reference LEP’s working alongside the local authorities, BDUK and BT to help achieve the current national target of making superfast broadband (24Mbps+) speeds available to 95% of the United Kingdom (population) by 2017.
However it’s interesting to note that there are some variations in this. For example, the South East Midlands LEP (SEMLEP) growth deal (here) also said it plans to “invest £8.8m to extend [the] Superfast Broadband project to deliver 100% coverage” (no firm date is given for that). Once again these are general commitments and not business specific.
Finally, Growth Deal discussions for future years will begin immediately over the unallocated minimum of £6 billion of the £10 billion available for 2016 – 2017 to 2020 – 2021.