On Wednesday, July 15, similar questions will be put to the Somerset full Council meeting at 10am in Shire Hall, Taunton, as were put to Devon CC’s Cabinet last Wednesday, which has resulted in the DCC Scrutiny Committee convening a special extraordinary meeting on Sept 3. Anybody wishing to join in and support us will be very welcome.
Fast Broadband for rural Devon & Somerset <firstname.lastname@example.org>
has circulated this paper today to all DCC Councillors and Devon MP’s
Dear Members of Devon County Council,
Prior to the July 8 DCC Cabinet meeting, when Cllr Andrew Leadbetter made an urgent statement at John Hart’s request on the CDS Board’s failure to agree a Phase 2 broadband contract with BT, Cllr Leadbetter distributed a paper to members refuting the claims I made in my email to you over the weekend
Cllr Leadbetter claims that my assertions are factually incorrect and in his paper he states what he calls the facts. This document puts the record straight by examining the “facts” claimed by Cllr Leadbetter and provides you with the evidence to do that:
Cllr Leadbetter’s first “fact”:
Cllr Leadbetter claims there is no shortfall in the £45.5M funding package for Phase 2 broadband: At the beginning of the July 8 Cabinet meeting, Cllr Leadbetter distributed a response to my written question to the Cabinet, where I asked for a detailed breakdown of how the Phase 2 funding package was made up prior to when negotiations between the CDS Board and BT fell apart on June 26th. Cllr Leadbetter’s written response, prepared by Sofie Francis of CDS was:
“The funding package for the Phase 2 contract is made up of £15M from local authority and LEP and nearly £20M matched from BDUK and nearly £3M matched from public sector partners, the LEP and Airband. The programme also set aside a contingency of £2M made up from BDUK and Devon & Somerset County Councils. The remainder is the expected private sector contribution. The partnership also continues to seek additional investment from other external funding opportunities”.
As you can see, this is not a detailed breakdown, but it can be analysed as follow:
|BDUK allocation to CDS as of January 2014
|Total funding package when BDUK allocation fully matched
|Cllr Leadbetter’s Cabinet answer states:
|Phase 2 funding outside of the National Parks:
|…..from “local authority” and LEP
|Total Phase 2 funding outside the National Parks
|Phase 2 funding inside the National Parks:
|…..LEP & Airband (supplier) match funding
|Total Phase 2 funding inside the National Parks*
|“Contingency” from BDUK, DCC, SCC
|Total Phase 2 funding (£35M+£5M+£2M)
|Shortfall from £45.5M fully matched package
|Shortfall from £45.5M including contingency (£3.5M+£2M)
|Shortfall from £45.5M taking the National Parks budget of £4.6M, not £5M*
*NB: The National Parks, Airband contract value in the DCC Press Release is stated as being £4.6M, not £5M as Cllr Leadbetter claims.
Rather than being a fully matched package of £45.5M invested in Phase 2, the above breakdown demonstrates that there is a minimum shortfall of £3.5M which becomes £3.9M correcting for the erroneous £5m that Cllr Leadbetter quotes as the Airband contract value. This becomes £5.9M when the £2M “contingency” is included. It is appropriate to do this because any competent contract negotiator will deal with defaults by either party through default clauses build into the contract. Creating a huge £2M contingency fund to sit (presumably) in a DCC suspense account somewhere in case CDS’s chosen supplier(s) default is unheard of and is an extremely inefficient use of capital and resources.
Only Cllr Leadbetter and members of the CDS Board know exactly what the £2M “contingency” represents, but by describing the £4.6M Airband contract as being £5M, it is clear that precision is not a priority in how these numbers have been put together. What seems much more likely is that the £2M is in fact part of the £22.75M allocation withheld by BDUK because the CDS Board failed to raise full match funding. Similarly, the £3.9M is likely to be match funding withheld by District and Borough Councils who had “in principle” agreed to provide it but who have refused to follow through on their “in principle” commitment after the CDS Board failed to provide them with the basic “who where and when” their taxpayers would benefit from that investment. This of course is conjecture, but since the CDS Board release the very minimum of information on their activities and finances, conjecture is all we are left with
What is in the public domain, is that SSDC have refused to provide the £640k of match funding that they were asked for, and that EDDC and Teignbridge DC have done the same for similar amounts. It is also believed that Taunton Deane, Mendip, Sedgemoor and Mid Devon District Councils have also withheld the match funding that they agreed “in principle” to provide.
Cllr Leadbetter’s second “fact”:
Cllr Leadbetter claims that it is untrue that it was a “failure” by the CDS Board to agree a Phase 2 contract.
It was a failure of the CDS Board to agree a Phase 2 contract, because following the allocation of £22.75M to CDS by BDUK in January 2014, the CDS Board then embarked on its first open market tender process. This was in response to public criticism of the Phase 1 programme which was awarded to BT in almost every UK County and was bound up by commercial confidentiality clauses at BT’s insistence such that no one outside of the CDS Board knew the full details of the programme, it’s day to day financing, or it’s deployment schedule. This is almost unheard of for a contract involving £53M of public money, a fact which has been criticised many times by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office.
Believing that criticisms had been heeded, it appeared up until November 2014 that Phase 2 would follow a much more open tendering process, resulting in a publicly accessible contract. This all changed last November when a shambolic Supplier Day for Phase 2 was held in Exeter Library, which was attended by 26 potential suppliers, BT amongst them. When Keri Denton tried to wind up the meeting up after only 20 minutes without allowing potential suppliers to ask questions in open forum, it was clear that something was amiss. Furthermore, when the ITT was not released on the agreed date of November 30th and no ITT had been published by the date in January 2015, for bids to be submitted had passed, it was clear that a deal was being done behind closed doors. This subsequently turned out to be a closed bidding process using the “BDUK Framework” with BT being the only company allowed to bid, because having already supplied the Phase 1 contract in Devon & Somerset, BT are the only company on the Framework.
Cllr Leadbetter is quoted as saying that BT had threatened to pull out of an open tender process if BT were not allowed to bid for the contract on an exclusive basis, but it is also known from replies to FOI submissions, that BT were the last company to provide OMR (Open Market Review) data in December 2014. OMR data was required to be submitted from all suppliers in October 2014. Without BT’s OMR data, BT knew that CDS would not be able to write and issue the ITT, but because June 30, 2015 has always been the State Aid deadline for Phase 2, by threatening to withdraw and delaying the submission of their OMR data, BT were well aware that the delay would make it impossible for CDS to complete an open market tender in the few months that were then left before the end of June. This is the CDS Board’s failure because they failed to stand up to these bullying tactics by BT and simple acquiesced to BT’s demands.
When a company like BT gets an exclusive contract without any competitors in sight, they will not give anything away and what is worse they will then demand that the contract is agreed on their terms and not on the customers terms (who wouldn’t?). Cllr Leadbetter and the CDS Board were warned that this would happen by me and others on many occasions, but they were not listening and so it was no surprise that contract negotiations fell apart on June 26th, just two days after Ed Vaizey said in Westminster Hall, (with Cllr Leadbetter in the room), that the CDS contract would be signed by June 26th.
This again is squarely a failure by the CDS Board who abandoned an open tender procurement process in November 2014 in order to “put all their Phase 2 eggs in the BT basket”, claiming then that BT would provide a better deal than could be obtained by the aborted open tender process. However, another nine months later, we now find that the CDS Board have failed to secure this BT exclusive contract and, waving the flag of “better value for money” they are now proposing to go around the tendering process for a third time.
It is said that to make a mistake once is an error – a learning opportunity. To make the same mistake a second time is incompetence after which most organisations restructure in order to ensure that the same mistake is not made a third time by the same people. Having now failed to agree a Phase 2 contract twice, the CDS Board are now proposing that they have a third attempt to agree a Phase 2 contract, 18 months after the BDUK funding was allocated to them and such that it will be at least 6 months and more likely another year, before any third attempt to agree a contract succeeds. It should be noted that Devon & Somerset are now the only two UK Counties not to have a Phase 2 contract in place for at least 95% of our population and as a result will now be the last two counties in the UK to secure 95% coverage!
Having failed twice to secure a Phase 2 contract, the CDS Board have demonstrated their incompetence for this task and rather than allowing them a third attempt, which is in no way guaranteed to deliver the goods, a new Board should be appointed whose activities are fully in the public domain.
Cllr Leadbetter’s third “fact”:
Cllr Leadbetter states: “There is no evidence to support the assertion that Devon & Somerset taxpayers may have to wait up to 7 years for improvement in their broadband service.”
The seven years quoted is taken from the first sentence on the News report on CDS’s own website headed “Decision time for the second stage roll out of the CDS programme”, which states:
As you may be aware from the media reports over the weekend, BT was unable to commit to achieving the target of 95% superfast broadband coverage by the end of 2017. In addition, BT could not give us any reassurances that the 95% target could be reached by 2021/22.
As the exclusive provider for the Phase 2 contract, up until June 26, 2015, BT were saying that it may not be possible to provide the 95% coverage required by the Phase 2 contract until 7 years (2022) from now, in return for the £35M that the CDS Board was prepared to invest in the project. Whilst some of us may be pleased that BT are no longer CDS’s exclusive supplier for Phase 2, we must take their forecast as quoted by CDS, as having some basis in credibility. If the CDS Board do issue a new open tender for Phase 2 as they propose, there is nothing to guarantee that any better deal, with any provider (including BT) can be negotiated in the next nine months. Having treated 26 suppliers so appallingly last November there is good reason to be concerned that the best that will be achieved in another 9 months time will be worse than what was on the table between the CDS Board and BT, on June 26th, not to mention the further delay that will be incurred, which will hit rural householders and businesses, across the two counties, hard.
The above examination of these four “facts” claimed by Cllr Leadbetter demonstrates that each of them is not what they seem. As such, this is information that the DCC Place Scrutiny Committee must take into account in its examination of how the CDS/BT contract negotiations have fallen apart and the CDS Board’s proposal to have a third attempt at putting a Phase 2 contract in place for 95% of Devon & Somerset.
The incompetence demonstrated by the CDS Board and their arrogance in believing they can “have a third go at it”, is breathtaking, irrespective of Cllr Leadbetter’s protestations at the DDC Cabinet meeting July 8, emphasising the presence of two Chief Executives, Senior County Councillors, one industry representative, a BDUK representative, together with a number of partner authority officers plus the CDS Programme Manager. The CDS Board needs to be disbanded and reappointed before any third attempt is made at negotiating a 95% minimum coverage Phase 2 contract.
My wife is a teacher and a school governor. The education of our children is so important to us that should a school fail an OFSTED inspection, it is put into “special measures”; a new head is appointed along with new school governors and often senior staff. Those who run a failing school do not get a second chance! Why should the CDS Board be allowed a third chance? They are responsible for spending close to £100M of public money, a much larger budget than any school. Is it not the case that the provision of fast broadband, so that rural students can learn efficiently and our rural businesses can compete efficiently, of equal importance to us, as is the efficiency with which our schools are run?
Upottery Parish Councillor
On behalf of “Faster Broadband for Rural Devon & Somerset”
Its all happening everywhere but Compton Dundon, Littleton and the Charltons Compton Dundon does not have a telephone exchange but utilises those in Street and Somerton. Those with “44….” telephone numbers connected to the Street exchange were left out of the first stage of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) roll out, which continues.
The Parish Council investigated the possibility of a ‘gap funded’ program from BT Openreach for 44 numbers and 27 numbers but BT have so far been incapable of providing clarity of cost or detail of infrastructure investment on a commercial basis despite many residents expressing interest in using the service if it was provided
It is important that Compton Dundon’s 44 telephone numbers are included in the second stage Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) where negotiations between BT and CDS have now fallen through putting the funding at risk. See Press Release below. If you are concerned regarding this ongoing fiasco you may be moved to write to your MP email@example.com.
CDS PRESS RELEASE
26 June 2015
DECISION FOR THE SECOND STAGE ROLL OUT OF THE CONNECTING DEVON & SOMERSET SUPERFAST BROADBAND PROGRAMME
Following weeks of discussions, the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) Programme have been unable to secure a value for money deal and BT was today told it would not be awarded a £35m public-fundedcontract for the next phase of the planned superfast broadband roll-out.
CDS’ decision follows lengthy discussions with BT and BDUK – the Government agency responsible for the national broadband roll-out. It emerged that BT could not meet the Government’s and CDS target of achieving 95% superfast broadband coverage by the end of 2017.
BT’s best offer does not meet the public value for money standards required under Section 151 of the Local Government Act. Finance officers who have a fiduciary duty to tax-payers said the offer was high risk.
After seeking clarification from BT about their bid, the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) Partnership have decided to reissue the tender for this work as an open procurement exercise. The local authority partners of CDS are naturally disappointed on behalf of local residents and businesses that they could not agree a contract at this stage.
BT had said that they would not be able to deliver the extent of superfast broadband required by 2017, prompting the partnership to re-engage in the market through an open procurement process.
CDS is the largest single superfast broadband programme in England and makes an important contribution to the Government’s national targets for the broadband roll-out
In January this year Connecting Devon & Somerset announced its plans to publish a tender for the second stage of its Superfast broadband programme, which will bring a further £45m investment and hoped toincrease broadband coverage to at least 95% across the region.
As well as an open tender covering the Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks, the results of which will be announced next week, CDS alsoissued a tender for the rest of the area using the national government procurement framework, through which BT responded.
Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Somerset County Council said: ‘This is a huge disappointment for us. BT have let the County Councils down, they have also let the Connecting Devon and Somerset Partnership down, and worst of all they have let residents, communities and businesses in Somerset and Devon down. We have a duty to seek best value for all our residents and their tender for the next phase of the programme was just not up to scratch,”
We are acutely aware of the importance of Superfast Broadband for all our residents but we also needed to make sure we got value for money on behalf of our taxpayers. In taking this action we have acted in the best interests of those who live and run businesses in the region and we will now do everything we can to minimise the delay this causes to the programme. CDS will issue more details once timescales for a new procurement are confirmed. CDS will continue to work with BT on the delivery of phase one of the programme to meet the Government’s target of 90% coverage by the end of 2016.’
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Devon County Council said: “I feel let down by BT and their lack of ambition, as well as their unwillingness to negotiate a good deal for the residents and businesses of Devon and Somerset! What they were offering did not represent good value for money and would not have addressed the issues of providing universal provision’
I am only too well aware of how important good broadband connections are to our rural businesses and residents. But we’re committed to delivering value for money for our residents in everything we do. In all conscience we couldn’t sign up to this new deal because it just didn’t deliver. We are, however, still on track through the first phase of the project. We will now go to an open procurement process without delay. I am determined that this should be done as quickly as possible.”
SOUTH Somerset District Council (SSDC) has demanded proof that there is value for money before giving £640,000 towards Phase 2 superfast broadband project. http://www.viewfrompublishing.co.uk/news_view/35943/3/1/somerset-district-council-defers-%C2%A3640-000
A farmer’s wife speaks – rural broadband solutions
why I care – what’s wrong – what’s to be done
A land fit for hermits? Before the election, Computer Weekly came up with a list of the groups of people who would take the lack of adequate broadband into account when they vote. Since it seems that politicians may, since the election, be waking up to this, it is worth looking back at their list and asking if you know if anyone has been left out?…..
1. Anyone with poor broadband who is planning to sell their house.
2. Estate agents, because people aren’t buying properties with poor broadband.
3. Any small business or self-employed person who has to upload large files: software designers, on-line language tutors, technical authors, illustrators, photographers etc
4. Owners of B&Bs and holiday lets because enquirers always ask about your internet connection, and if it’s slow they say, “It’s only tentative. We may get back
5. Farmers and other landowners because they can’t get their returns back to DEFRA without a trip to use the nearest library’s computers (see the cartoon attached to this email).
6. Parents of school-age children because their kids won’t be able to do the on-line homework that’s required.
7. Teachers, because they want their pupils to be able to use the internet for homework.
8. Headteachers because parents won’t move to areas with poor broadband, therefore the schools will close.
9. Film buffs because hardly anyone sends for DVDs anymore, but streaming doesn’t work with the copper wires clogged up by people watching BT Sport.
10. Sports fanatics because BT’s now got all the big footie games, only the little wheel keeps going round because the people down the road are trying to stream a movie.
11. Teenagers because the little wheel keeps going round on Youtube, and all the adults are trying to watch football or stream movies (correction – if teenagers did vote, most don’t any more after Russell Brand’s crazy advice).
12. Computer gamers, because if the answer to universal superfast broadband turns out to be via satellite, the games won’t work because of the time lag , and anyway, everyone else is trying to watch footie or stream movies (Sony’s Playstation 4′s launch in North America has just sold sold 1m units in 24 hours. It goes on sale in the UK on 29th November and rival Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is available from 22nd, just in time to use up all the bandwidth for Christmas).
13. Baby boomers who have children abroad and want to reliably Skype their grandchildren “Hello. Are you there (repeated three times)? It’s a bad connection (shouted). Can you see us? We can’t see you. We’ll try again in a couple of hours. Oh, they’ll be asleep then. So what time shall ……… >>>>>>. Oh */?*!”
And that leaves: Ummm…. Hermits?