Sheffield & South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire councils give £3m to Digital Region scheme

A project to provide high speed broadband across South Yorkshire is to get another £3m of taxpayers' money.

The Digital Region project was launched in 2010 to help businesses, homes, schools and council offices gain access to superfast broadband services.

It has already received £90m from European funds and the four South Yorkshire councils but numbers signing up to use the service have been low.

The councils have agreed to give £3m of further funding between them.

Sheffield City Council, Barnsley Council, Rotherham Council and Doncaster Council are all shareholders in the scheme.

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

Digital Region has revealed it will use a new business model and appoint a private company to take over the running of its network.

The appointed supplier will take responsibility for all operating costs, sales, marketing and revenue generation.

Andrew Bedford, Rotherham Council's strategic director of resources, said the option was "clearly the best way forward" and would "bring maximum value for money to our taxpayers".

He said it would help to reduce the council's current commitments and future risk.

David Cowell, Digital Region's chief operating officer, said the first build phase of the project had recently been completed on time, meaning 80% of businesses and homes in the county could connect.

He said: "Digital Region Limited is delighted to move forward with the continued support of both the board and the central government and local authority shareholders."

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