North area committee: Rural broadband, libraries and the budget

County Council election.'John Woodman
County Council election.'John Woodman

Members heard that the take-up for superfast broadband was good in the county, particularly in the north.

John Cooper, from the iNorthumberland team, provided an update on the project to roll out superfast broadband across much of the county.

He said that in the areas which have been funded by public money, the take-up for the new fibre technology was 13 per cent of all properties.

This is ‘ahead of where we expected to be and quite a lot ahead of some other comparable counties’. In Rothbury, which is a separate scheme, take-up is 24 per cent.

Five of the 10 best performing cabinets are in north Northumberland and none of the 10 worst are in this area.

However, it remains the case that BT is rolling out broadband on a value-for-money basis and this means that it is not known how or when some communities, particularly smaller ones at a distance from exchanges, will be connected to superfast broadband.

• Responding to a brief report to members on the closure of Seahouses library, Coun John Woodman said: “It was a real shame that the construction problem happened so quickly because we were looking at a long-term solution, we still are, but I think we have got a pretty good short-term solution in place.”

• A member of the public raised concerns that the proposed budget contains a 70 per cent reduction in spend on books, etc, for libraries. Coun Scott Dickinson, the council’s business chairman, explained that the aim is to circulate books where they are needed in the county, instead of impulse buying.

• One of the county council’s executive directors, Daljit Lally, made a presentation on the proposed budget for 2015-2017, which will see a further £44million in cuts and efficiencies. She said that it was the authority’s ‘express wish’ that compulsory redundancies are kept to a minimum.

• Coun Alan Symmonds, from Alnwick Town Council, wanted to ensure that details of budget proposals were shared with town and parish councils so that the correct decisions on spending and services could be made when they decide their precepts for the forthcoming financial year.