Will Towns Fund improve just council connectivity or residential too?
We now know the initial batch of 100 towns that are part of the £3.6 billion town fund which aims to help regenerate towns that have missed out over the last few years and hopefully the money will do more than just apply a fresh lick of paint or some flowers on roundabouts.
Ensuring that prosperity and opportunities are available to everyone in this country, not just those in London or our biggest cities, is at the heart of the mission of this government.
We want to level-up our great towns, raising living standards and ensuring they can thrive with transformative investment in transport, technology, skills and culture.
I will now work with local people from the 100 communities announced today to agree proposals to invest up to £25 million in each place. I hope these deals will provide the investment and the impetus for long-term renewal ensuring each town can look to the future with a new optimism.Local Government Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP
The local authorities in conjunction with local business and the community is now meant to draw up proposals as to what they will do with the up to £25 million and the focus is meant to be on transport, broadband connectivity as well as skills and culture. So we may see some councils focus on upgrading roads and parking and others funding improvements to local schools and colleges or art galleries and hopefully some broadband.
With 100 areas drawing up proposals there is likely to be as many varying proposals based on the local priorities, but if the broadband connectivity follows the same trend as the Local Full Fibre Network funding it will be used to revamp the networks linking council buildings rather than filling in the not-spots or upgrading connectivity to full fibre in swathes of an area. In terms of full fibre if you confine yourself to the urban areas then it should be possible to deliver full fibre to at around £300-500 per premises passed and this means an area such as Margate could have 100% full fibre delivered for around £8,000,000 (14% of Margate already has full fibre by virtue of the Virgin Media RFOG cable network, so the £8 million includes some leeway for more expensive premises on the edge of the town).
As the proposals are meant to be drawn up in conjunction with local communities it is time to start lobbying for what people want. Of course we would welcome spending on broadband but after many years of local authority cutbacks there may be other things that deserve the funding, perhaps re-opening a local library and giving it brilliant Wi-Fi and a digital help centre as well as the traditional books may be what is needed.
The full list of 100 towns is:
Barrow-in-Furness, Bedford, Birkenhead, Bishop Auckland, Blackpool, Bloxwich, Blyth (Northumberland), Bolton, Boston, Bournemouth, Bridgwater, Brighouse, Burton upon Trent, Camborne, Carlisle, Castleford, Cheadle (Greater Manchester), Clay Cross, Cleator Moor, Colchester, Corby, Crawley, Crewe, Darlington, Darwen, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Dudley, Glastonbury, Goldthorpe, Goole, Grays, Great Yarmouth, Grimsby, Harlow, Hartlepool, Hastings, Hereford, Ipswich, Keighley and Shipley, Kidsgrove, King's Lynn, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Leyland, Lincoln, Long Eaton, Loughborough, Lowestoft, Mablethorpe, Mansfield, Margate, Middlesbrough, Millom, Milton Keynes, Morley, Nelson (Lancashire), Newark-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Newhaven (East Sussex), Northampton, Norwich, Nuneaton, Oldham, Penzance, Peterborough, Preston, Redcar, Redditch, Rochdale, Rotherham, Rowley Regis, Runcorn, Scarborough, Scunthorpe, Skegness, Smethwick, Southport, St Helens (Merseyside), St Ives (Cornwall), Stainforth (South Yorkshire), Stapleford (Nottinghamshire), Staveley (Derbyshire) Stevenage, Stocksbridge, Sutton in Ashfield, SwindonTelford, Thornaby-on-Tees, Tilbury, Todmorden, Torquay, Truro, Wakefield, Walsall, Warrington, West Bromwich, Whitby, Wolverhampton, Worcester, Workington
Some of the towns in the list are already on the CityFibre and Openreach full fibre roll-out plans so it will be interesting to see how the local authority responsible for the town decide to spend the money, it is entirely possible that some will not spend any on broadband.