Burnham-On-Sea’s MP has expressed his dismay at the news that a bid by BT for a £35m contract to provide broadband access to people across Somerset has been rejected.
The Connecting Devon and Somerset partnership said BT’s best offer did not meet value for money standards, and that it had now reissued the tender for the work.
It also said the company could no longer meet a target of achieving 95% superfast broadband coverage by the end of 2017. BT said it had made its “best possible offer”.
Burnham’s MP James Heappey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “It is disappointing to see the collapse of the Phase 2 contract negotiations for the Connecting Devon & Somerset project. I was never privy to the finer detail of the contract, but I understand that there was a significant gap between BT’s offer and the expectations of Devon and Somerset County Councils.”
“In so far as ensuring value for money for their taxpayers should always be their top priority, I support them in taking the robust position that they have.”
“However, there is now a very worrying uncertainty around the future of the project and I fear that this will mean a delay for those who were likely to be connected under the Phase 2 contract.”
“In the Wells Constituency, that would likely have included many of our most rural villages and hamlets. We must move forward quickly to ensure that a new tendering process brings a better offering than the one just rejected from BT and to make sure that any delay arising from the collapse of this deal will be kept to an absolute minimum.”
“I will be joining other Somerset and Devon MPs in pushing Government for a speedy renegotiation of the State Aid permissions and will be wanting to work with the county councils as they seek new bidders for this vital contract.”
“Delivering superfast broadband remains my top priority as it will unlock the economic potential of our area. We must move forward at pace to find a solution that is better value for money and rolls out more quickly.”
In a statement, BT said: “BT is committed to making high-speed fibre broadband as widely available as possible and we are disappointed that we have not yet been able to reach agreement on the next phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme.”
“We believe we have made the best possible offer to take superfast broadband coverage beyond the current target of around 90% by the end of next year, taking into account the challenging and remote nature of some locations in the two counties.”
BT added that a “huge engineering operation” would be required and it estimated that it would taken more than 15 years for it to get a return on its investment.