Broadband vouchers scheme fund for businesses is ‘exhausted’: council

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Funding has been exhausted for programme which would provide Mid and East Antrim groups with super fast broadband.

The Super Connected Cities scheme, administered by Belfast City Council, offered businesses the chance to apply a £3,000 voucher which could be used to fund equipment and infrastructure.

The initiative is part of the £100m Super Connected Cities fund which the Chancellor of the Exchequer rolled out across the UK in 2012.

Earlier this year, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Council Mrs Anne Donaghy applied for the local council to enter the scheme after a further £40 million was made available to extend it.

However, funding for the programme has now been exhausted, members of the MEA Economic Growth and Development Committee were told.

Speaking at a meeting on October 19, economic and tourism manager Aidan Donnelly said: “This programme has now closed; the money has been exhausted.

“In Mid and East Antrim we have 39 incomplete applications, and 41 vouchers have been issued.

“Across Northern Ireland there were group applications; two were from this area, but only one group application will receive support and that is in Newry.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Belfast City Council indicated that it is in the process of contacting all businesses who have been unsuccessful to inform them of the status of their application.

“There was no specific allocation to any region or city. The government had a fund of £40million which was allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and was available to 50 cities across the UK. Some 67 businesses in the MEA area have been offered £126,715 in funding,” the spokesperson added.

“There is no suggestion at this stage that additional funding will be made available. It is our hope that the government will change their position given the demand for connection vouchers and the benefits that they can bring.”