Council ready to stump up £270,000 to aid South Yorkshire internet project

ROTHERHAM Council officials are reviewing a multi-million pound project to provide super-fast broadband across South Yorkshire.

It was reported this week that Digital Region had lost more than £9 million last year in operating costs, and brought in just £167,000.

Rotherham Borough Council confirmed that a fresh report had been commissioned on how the project was progressing and said that it had pledged to make £270,000 available if needed to support the scheme.

A spokeswoman for the four South Yorkshire councils said: “A pioneering project of this scale and complexity obviously presents a number of challenges in a rapidly-changing marketplace and the published accounts reflect how some of those challenges have impacted on the business over the last year.

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“The four councils in South Yorkshire continue to work to support both the project and Digital Region Ltd in its work, as well as minimising any risk to the shareholders, including the four authorities.

“That includes, where appropriate and in the best interests of all shareholders, providing flexibility around financial arrangements such as the repayment of existing loans.

“Additional financial support could be made from each of the councils in the light of the company’s current position, and the councils will continue to monitor and work closely with Digital Regional Ltd over the months ahead to identify what the extent of that funding might be.”

One of the aspects currently being looked at is the business model for the project, now that the network is operational.

The council said that the emphasis would be on promoting the potential benefits that it brings to the people and businesses of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

Further reports will be brought back to the elected members of each authority for consideration in the near future.

The Digital Region project, launched in 2010, was intended to serve businesses, homes, schools and council offices.

It was funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward and the four South Yorkshire councils.

In September, a scrutiny panel on Barnsley Council raised concerns over the project, saying the roll-out had been taking longer than anticipated and more was needed to achieve sales.

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