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Superfast roll out by councils is superslow

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Damaging businesses: Nine Welsh councils have no broadband plan

AN INVESTIGATION by broadband comparison website, BroadbandChoices, which analysed almost four hundred UK council websites and Ofcom performance statistics, has revealed that many councils have missed their own targets and deadlines for improving broadband connectivity in their areas.

And only one of Wales’ 22 councils – Newport – has hit the target; while nine have no plan at all.

The research reveals that many councils fall drastically short of targets set to provide superfast connectivity. Just 12 out of the 391 UK Councils analysed have reached 95% levels of superfast broadband penetration or higher, the UKs target. It also revealed that only 7 councils in the UK have met the targets for broadband speeds they set themselves.

The latest analysis from BroadbandChoices highlights how much work must still be done by Councils to provide sufficient connectivity to all homes and businesses in the UK, regardless of location.

With broadband speeds affecting small businesses, rural communities and those who work from home, internet speeds have a significant impact on productivity and can cost businesses money, time and even customers or clients and are costing businesses thousands in lost productivity.

The average percentage of premises with superfast broadband speeds has been revealed to be just 58% based on Ofcom’s report – nearly 40% lower than the 95% UK-wide target. The research also reveals that almost a quarter (24%) of councils don’t have a publicly available strategy when it comes to broadband.

After reviewing 391 council plans for broadband outlined on each council’s website and comparing them with actual broadband performance levels as compiled by Ofcom2 the research also revealed that the percentage of premises with access to superfast broadband ranges from just 11% in some jurisdictions, to 98% in others. This dramatic discrepancy in connectivity means some council areas have 87% fewer homes able to access superfast broadband yet no clear plans in place to improve performance.

The research exposes how the majority of councils in the UK under-estimated how long it would take to make superfast broadband available to premises within their borough. Sixty-seven councils were found to have failed to meet the targets they set themselves within the timeframes they identified.

The findings suggest that many councils in the UK have failed to make superfast broadband a priority. Surprisingly, 122 councils have information about plans to extend broadband penetration on their websites but exact details regarding reach and performance are inadequate. Broadband Choices research found vague claims in an unquantifiable format or without a specific target date for completing the work. Meanwhile, many other councils failed to even reference broadband on their websites.

The volume of ongoing council plans demonstrates that many councils are still working towards achieving widespread connectivity in their areas, and that more work still needs to be done to reach the UK Government target of 95% coverage for superfast broadband, despite some reports that it has already been achieved.

Vix Leyton, home comms expert at Broadband Choices said: “This study demonstrates that while many UK councils have active plans in place to improve connectivity for their residents, very few have succeeded in actually meeting their targets. Meanwhile, areas with the most need have councils who are failing to recognise good internet connectivity as a strategic priority.

“Whilst our research gives a broad stroke picture of the UK by comparing council intention to reported performance, a lot of consumers are still in the dark when it comes to the actual service and speed they will personally receive until after they have signed up for a deal. Broadband Choices has been lobbying for some time to inform consumer purchasing, using things like the postcode checker tool, to ensure that in the face of different reports about performance they will get a clear and honest picture of the position their home or business is in.

“Access to technology is a staple requirement and reliance on high-quality connectivity will only increase. That’s why we’re helping to educate consumers so they are better aware of the broadband available in their area, and what plans their local Council has in place to keep up with technology. Councils should have their plans and target deadlines clearly outlined on their website for constituents to see, and if targets haven’t been met this needs to be addressed and reviewed, and residents are entitled to know why.”

“The lack of superfast broadband has a combined impact on productivity and communication, which is a real concern, translating into a loss for small businesses, and communities. Councils need to do more to improve connectivity to protect the productivity of the UK workforce.”

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Business

Young person celebrates kickstart job and overcomes several obstacles

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22-YEAR-OLD Lee from rural Ceredigion found it challenging to secure permanent employment. Having no mode of transport as well as his diagnosis of autism and depression meant that Lee has experienced significant barriers with finding and maintaining employment. Communities For Work Plus (CFW+) provided Lee with the right tools and opportunities to find the right role for him. He now has a job at ASN Watson (Savers), with a more positive future ahead.

Lee was struggling financially with increasing debt and although he had been working in the past, the nature and environment of the work was not practical for Lee’s abilities; he was often misunderstood by employers.

After being referred to CFW+ from Job Centre Plus, Aberystwyth, Lee received support with job searches, applications, cover letters, cv writing, and interview skills. He’s now in paid employment, secured through the Kickstart Scheme. The UK Government Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.

Lee said: “The project helped me a lot as I struggle to know where to start when it comes to finding jobs, but this definitely helped. Communities for Work+ has got you covered!”

Communities For Work Plus is a Welsh Government funded project, delivered by Ceredigion County Council which supports individuals in or at risk of poverty, aged 16 or over, across Ceredigion and throughout Wales. Participants may be experiencing in-work poverty, unemployment, living on minimum wage, or struggling to pay basic monthly outgoings on sporadic zero-hour contracts.

Misha Homayoun-Fekri, CFW+ Mentor said: “Lee has been a pleasure to support. He was always very responsive, and we worked together every step of the way. I am so pleased for Lee that he has found a job that he can be happy in.”

Since starting his new role, Lee has become a lot more independent, his mental health has improved, and has started to save money for the future.

Councillor Wyn Thomas, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. A report released by the Office for National Statistics shows that only 21.7% of autistic people are in employment; meaning that businesses are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from the strengths that autistic people can bring to the workplace. So, it’s great to hear that Lee has found an autism-friendly employer through the support provided by CFW+ and I encourage more employers to be more inclusive to all abilities when considering employees.”

If you think the project may be able to help you or if you would like more information, contact the team on 01545 574193 or email TCC-EST@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Mid Wales distillery wins COVID 19 Resilience Award

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THE TEAM at Ceredigion distillery, In the Welsh Wind, is celebrating after winning the COVID 19 Resilience Award at the inaugural Wales Food and Drink Awards.

The awards shortlisted businesses in a range of categories to reflect the diverse nature of what is a key sector in the Welsh economy and one that has a global reputation for excellence.

The COVID 19 Resilience Awards, sponsored by Cywain, recognised businesses that had gone above and beyond not only to support their communities but to grow and develop despite the pandemic.

During the first COVID 19 lockdown, In the Welsh Wind’s team was initially reduced to just the owners, Alex Jungmayr and Ellen Wakelam, with their young son.

Business manager Joe Lewis worked from home and the remaining three staff were placed on furlough. However, Ellen and Alex saw that the Cardigan area needed hand sanitiser and they were able to produce it, so they moved production away from gin and into sanitiser overnight.

Ellen said: “It was clear to us that we were in a position to be able to help the community, so there was no question that we would set up hand sanitiser production. From one small photo on social media of a bottle of hand sanitiser, we had queues of people up the distillery drive coming to collect.

“We also supplied many community groups and organisations including the RNLI, the Post Office delivery teams, the police, care homes and doctors’ surgeries. We provided the sanitiser free or at cost where we could.”

In addition to hand sanitiser, during the pandemic the team launched the distillery’s first ‘own brand’ Signature Style gin to much acclaim.

The company also worked with Bluestone Brewing Co to save 3,500 litres of Bluestone Summer Rocks beer from being wasted by creating a cask-aged Welsh vinegar which has since been featured on TV.

The business has grown significantly since September 2020, now employing 18 people and, most recently, has opened a gin bar, Bar 45, in Cardigan.

Ellen added: “Winning this award is really a testament to the whole team and how we’ve not only survived but grown and succeeded through what has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone.

“It’s been an honour to be able to help the community where I grew up by providing hand sanitiser and to work with Bluestone on the vinegar project as well as seeing our own success with the launch of Signature Style.”

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New owners at Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Newcastle Emlyn

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SAVILLS, on behalf of a private client, has completed the sale of Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Cenarth, Newcastle Emlyn, Wales, to Boutique Resorts Ltd for an undisclosed sum.

The holiday park is set on an attractively landscaped site extending approximately 11.52 acres (4.66 ha) which includes 1.92 acres of woodland. The holiday park has planning permission for 89 static caravan pitches and 30 mixed touring caravan pitches. At the entrance of the park there is a reception, sales office and games room. The property also provides a high quality fitness, hospitality and entertaining space including indoor swimming pool, gym, bar and function room licensed for a maximum of 290 guests, and owner’s accommodation comprising a three bedroom bungalow and adjoining two bedroom cottage.

Cenarth Falls Holiday Park is situated within the historic and picturesque village of Cenarth, Ceredigion, bordering Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. The village is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which attracts numerous visitors to the area. The River Teifi is renowned for excellent salmon and sea trout (sewin) fishing and the town of Cardigan is 10 minutes away with an array of shops and amenities. There are numerous sandy beaches nearby and many other activities on offer in the locality including walking, golf and water sports such as kayaking.

Richard Prestwich, Director in the Leisure and Trade Related team at Savills, says: “It has been a privilege to sell such a good quality holiday park, nurtured to its 5 star status over a 34 year period by the former family owner. The new owners are no strangers to high quality holiday businesses being an award winning holiday brand and they will look to improve the quality of the business further to complement their other holiday parks, with the nearest being Fishguard Bay Holiday Park.”

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