Council borrowing over £6m for superfast broadband scheme in Doncaster

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DONCASTER Council is having to borrow more than £6 million to pay for more costs arising from the controversial South Yorkshire Digital Region project.

A meeting of the full council has given the go-ahead to taking out the loan, because the authority does not have enough money to fund it through existing schemes.

Councillors who have approved the latest £6.28 million cash injection into the project heard no final figure was yet known.

A report from director of finance Simon Wiles said: “Until the process has been completed it is impossible to quantify with any certainty what the final cost will be.

“The council is in regular contact with Digital Region Ltd at board and officer level, to monitor the process and help to minimise the costs incurred and funded by the council.

“The level of available council reserves is insufficient to absorb these costs.”

The latest cash injection is having to be put in to keep the scheme going until a planned agreement with a broadband operator is agreed.

Final tenders from prospective operators are due in early in October, and a preferred bidder is then expected to be identified in mid October.

The operation is expected to be transferred to the successful bidder some time in late December.

The Digital Region project was launched in 2010 to give businesses, homes and schools access to superfast broadband.

A spokesperson for the four authorities involved in the scheme - Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield - said: “Like all such projects this is not without risk.

“Each of the four authorities and central government has always been mindful of the cost, and has taken every step possible, including changing the business model, to protect taxpayers.

“However, all stakeholders are confident the project will successfully deliver a market-leading scheme that is vital for South Yorkshire’s future.”