Swindon's wi-fi waste

September 07, 2011 12:42 PM

Outrage in Swindon over £400,000 of local taxpayers’ money that has gone missing with little to show for it. Two years ago, Swindon Borough Council entered into a partnership with hi-tech company Digital City to provide wi-fi across the area. To date, most of Swindon still has no wi-fi coverage and Digital City is on the brink of being dissolved. Council leader Rod Bluh, however, is optimistic that something can be salvaged from the financial calamity. 

‘If we are being accused of an error of judgment that is easy to prove with hindsight,’ he told the Swindon Advertiser. ‘We acknowledge things haven’t gone as well as we would like but we are confident as a result of [a] new investor it will be even bigger and better than we envisaged.’

Opposition councillors are less impressed, however, calling for the resignation of Bluh and his deputy. ‘Both Cllr Bluh and Cllr Perkins, who is a council-appointed director of Digital City, have failed to retrieve the £400,000 loan from Digital City,’ said one. ‘When the wi-fi scheme was presented the council was due to get all of the £400,000 loan back from Digital City by October this year. We are a month away from this date and Swindon Council-taxpayers haven’t received one penny from that company.’

It hasn’t helped matters that Digital City was headed by local businessman Rikki Hunt, revealed as a bankrupt. Hunt, until recently chairman of local business forum Swindon Strategic Economic Partnership, filed for bankruptcy in March, with debts of over £1 million to local businesses plus unpaid tax.  In an interview to the Swindon Advertiser, he bared his soul, revealing a childhood traumatised by free school meals. But he bounced back to become a market trader and oil company executive.

Explaining the wi-fi cock-up, he says ‘It went wrong almost from day one. That was because some people didn’t agree with the internal process within the council to making this decision. Quite frankly the Labour Party decided to capitalise on some of the questioning that was going on around the policies.’ Hunt expands further on the blame he accords local Labour councillors, saying ‘They had their stick in the hole and they wiggled it. Any problem they could find, they exploited it.’

What this means exactly is not made clear, leaving local residents fuming. ‘Ever since this project was announced,’ commented one, ‘each and every one of us told SBC that it was a total waste of tax payers money and that the council should never have allowed this amount of our money to be used in such a wasteful way but they would not listen. STOP WASTING OUR MONEY SBC!’ Well, absolutely.Outrage in Swindon over £400,000 of local taxpayers’ money that has gone missing with little to show for it. Two years ago, Swindon Borough Council entered into a partnership with hi-tech company Digital City to provide wi-fi across the area. To date, most of Swindon still has no wi-fi coverage and Digital City is on the brink of being dissolved. Council leader Rod Bluh, however, is optimistic that something can be salvaged from the financial calamity. 

‘If we are being accused of an error of judgment that is easy to prove with hindsight,’ he told the Swindon Advertiser. ‘We acknowledge things haven’t gone as well as we would like but we are confident as a result of [a] new investor it will be even bigger and better than we envisaged.’

Opposition councillors are less impressed, however, calling for the resignation of Bluh and his deputy. ‘Both Cllr Bluh and Cllr Perkins, who is a council-appointed director of Digital City, have failed to retrieve the £400,000 loan from Digital City,’ said one. ‘When the wi-fi scheme was presented the council was due to get all of the £400,000 loan back from Digital City by October this year. We are a month away from this date and Swindon Council-taxpayers haven’t received one penny from that company.’

It hasn’t helped matters that Digital City was headed by local businessman Rikki Hunt, revealed as a bankrupt. Hunt, until recently chairman of local business forum Swindon Strategic Economic Partnership, filed for bankruptcy in March, with debts of over £1 million to local businesses plus unpaid tax.  In an interview to the Swindon Advertiser, he bared his soul, revealing a childhood traumatised by free school meals. But he bounced back to become a market trader and oil company executive.

Explaining the wi-fi cock-up, he says ‘It went wrong almost from day one. That was because some people didn’t agree with the internal process within the council to making this decision. Quite frankly the Labour Party decided to capitalise on some of the questioning that was going on around the policies.’ Hunt expands further on the blame he accords local Labour councillors, saying ‘They had their stick in the hole and they wiggled it. Any problem they could find, they exploited it.’

What this means exactly is not made clear, leaving local residents fuming. ‘Ever since this project was announced,’ commented one, ‘each and every one of us told SBC that it was a total waste of tax payers money and that the council should never have allowed this amount of our money to be used in such a wasteful way but they would not listen. STOP WASTING OUR MONEY SBC!’ Well, absolutely.

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