Swindon Borough Council gambles on wireless internet

Compare and contrast:

Mr Greenhalgh, on moving a bus stop in Penhill;

What part of ‘we don’t have any money’ does Councillor Glaholm not understand?

Mr Edwards on next year’s council budget;

We always strive to deliver the lowest possible rise in council tax but the reality is that we are facing a very difficult situation. We have to look at the rate of council tax or the services we provide. We can’t have both.

From this, you may just get the impression that Swindon Borough Council is exceptionally short of money. Then comes today’s very widely publicised announcement that the council has set up a joint venture with a private company to provide wireless internet access throughout the borough by the coming April. Mr Bluh;

It can’t be about cost-cutting all the time – otherwise there will be nothing left.

Perhaps he should have a word with his cabinet colleagues — particularly Mr Greenhalgh — who appear to have a different opinion. As is often his way, Mr Bluh also seems to have swallowed the company’s publicity spin.

residents in the Borough be able to access the internet for free

Rather than being freee, this could be a costly gamble.

To get through the financial storm, we are going to have to start raising some revenue. We believe this is a good deal for Swindon.

The scheme will cost £1M. The council has a 35% share in the company, so if Mr Bluh’s gamble with our money doesn’t turn out as he expects, the council tax payers of Swindon could end up with a £350,000 bill. And £350,000 is not my understanding of ‘free’.

With the first service beginning in Highworth next month, and completed throughout the borough by the end of April, clearly most of the money will already have been spent. For the sake of everyone in Swindon, we can only hope that Mr Bluh’s commercial speculations are proved correct.