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Hand fines levelled at mobile operators to councils, LGA argues

Councils have today called on the government to give fines handed out to mobile operators for poor service or connectivity to local authorities.

At the moment, fines given to companies by regulator Ofcom go back into the Treasury coffers – with no guarantee that the money will go back into improving the connectivity of local areas.

But now, the LGA has demanded that the millions of pounds worth of fines should be transferred to local authorities to be put back into improving problems with network connectivity.

The call comes as it was revealed that only 61% of rural areas receive high-speed 4G coverage, compared to 94% of towns and cities in England and Wales.

The LGA also launched a new report, ‘Growing Places’, which includes new measures to improve the accessibility of reliable internet to people across the country. In particular, the association highlighted the need for Whitehall to prioritise 5G trials in rural areas and work towards developing universal standards for mobile data.

“Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access their bank accounts and even run their own businesses,” said Cllr Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board.

“As central and local government services increasingly become ‘digital by default’, more people will need to have faster and more reliable speeds, wherever they are.”

Despite having experienced significant funding reductions, councils are still leading the way to expand high-quality internet access to as many as possible and are investing in the digital infrastructure essential to Britain’s long-term economic success, Cllr Hawthorne added.

“Extending excellent mobile coverage across the country is key to ensuring all residents have access to 21st century digital connectivity,” he argued.  

“Councils have been at the forefront of work to roll out Superfast Broadband and are ready and willing to play an important role in helping to facilitate the provision of ubiquitous 4G coverage on behalf of residents and businesses.

“If a new duty is imposed on planning authorities to set out how they will help deliver digital infrastructure it must be accompanied by funding to pilot new local models for facilitating the deployment of these networks.

“Rather than fines levied on mobile operators going straight to the Treasury, it would be far better for councils to be able to use the money to boost local efforts to ensure everyone has access to fast and reliable digital connectivity.”

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