Shropshire rural broadband campaign group cuts its ties with authorities

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Campaigners for better broadband in rural Shropshire have severed their partnership with the Shropshire Council-led Connecting Shropshire scheme.

The Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband have been working with the council and BT in the hope of helping to bring high-speed broadband to the more isolated rural parts.

In particular campaigners were hoping to help the authority find a way to unlock an £11.38 million Government grant – that can only be accessed if it is matched by funding found by Shropshire Council.

But now spokesman Patrick Cosgrove said despite high hopes when they started working with the partnership, campaigners had lost patience.

He said: "After much thought, the Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband has concluded that there is little useful purpose in continuing with its membership of Connecting Shropshire's rural broadband group.

"To begin with there were high hopes that the thoughts of the members might help devise ways of identifying the matched funding for the £11.38m BDUK grant, and engage communities and other interest groups in imaginative ways of bringing faster broadband to rural communities.

"We have been disappointed. Attendance at the group has been patchy, agendas pre-set, and conditions of confidentiality too inhibiting for our campaign to express its views freely.

"We fear that publicity from the present broadband project will increasingly be used for political purposes.

"The campaign's initial aims were that rural households and businesses with poor or no broadband would be prioritised, that there would be a universal commitment to far higher than the minimum 2Mb guarantee. None of these has taken place."

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said: "We are of course disappointed that the campaign group have taken this decision, and there are a few points we would disagree on in the reasoning, however we will continue to keep the group informed and included as we continue working towards securing match funding through the Broadband Partnership."

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