Government extends local fibre scheme after ‘a number of delays’

Fifteen local projects given until the end of 2021 to conclude rollout

Credit: PA

The government has extended the deadline for allocating the funding of the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme after many projects “experienced a number of delays”.

The LFFN scheme was first announced in November 2017 and began by funding six pilot projects. Thereafter, the government has committed £190m to fund local and regional rollouts of full-fibre networks.

That money has been allocated in two waves, the first of which announced in March 2018 that it had awarded £95m to 13 projects, including bids from Blackpool, Cambridgeshire, and Mid-Sussex.

The final wave, which also has a funding pot of £95m, has awarded money to individual projects – rather than dedicating the whole amount upfront. The most recently available information indicated that, as of January 2020, 12 projects had been given a total of £64m.

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This includes £5.9m funding for Suffolk and £8m for Norfolk, as well as £15m for Northern Ireland, £9.2m for Stoke-on-Trent, and £2m for the Shetland Islands.

The deadline for all local agencies to access the funding they have been allocated was 31 March 20221. 

But digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said that, while “the majority of LFFN projects are on track to meet the deadline”, 15 rollouts will now have up to the end of next year to finish work.

“These projects experienced a number of delays, mainly in the procurement phase, but also where suppliers have been delayed in delivering against contractual targets,” he said. “This resulted in the 15 projects running behind schedule. Without a funding extension, there was a risk that not all of the allocated funding could be drawn before the original March 2021 deadline.”

Warman added: “Building Digital UK (BDUK) put forward a proposal to HM Treasury recommending an extension to the timeline rather than de-scoping public building fibre upgrades. HM Treasury agreed to this request, and BDUK now expects to complete all of these remaining projects by December 2021.”

BDUK, which is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, “continue to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on their delivery projects and have undertaken scenario planning activity in line with Cabinet Office guidelines”, the digital infrastructure minister said.

Warman was answering a written parliamentary question from Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central.


Sam Trendall

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