The UK government has pledged to invest £50 million in broadband infrastructure for the country’s smaller cities.
Chancellor George Osborne made the announcement during his 2012 budget speech this afternoon.
The plan follows a scheme announced last year to invest £100 million to create 10 "super connected" cities in the UK. All 14 UK cities with over 150,000 ‘dwellings’ are eligible to apply for that investment, and today Osborne announced that the successful bidding cities are Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle.
Osborne said that the new £50 million investment plan was inspired by Simon Kirby, Conservative MP for Brighton, Kempton and Peacehaven, who had called for smaller cities to be ‘super connected’ too, "no doubt with his own city in mind".
"I agree," said Osborne. "£50 million will be available for smaller cities too."
Osborne also said that he wanted to "turn Britain into Europe’s technology centre", starting with the digital content industry.
He said he would achieve this by extending tax credit currently available to the film industry to the video game, animation and "high-end TV" industries.
"The fastest digital speeds in the world available in our cities, with the most connected countryside in Europe and the most creative digital content anywhere – that’s what a modern industrial policy looks like," he said.
On his website Simon Kirby says that he has been "at the forefront of the campaign for Brighton to be included amongst the cities eligible to bid, and have met with the Secretary of State on a number of occasions to discuss this issue".
Caroline Lucas, Green party leader and MP for Brighton Pavillion has made similar calls. "[Brighton] has the biggest cluster of digital businesses per head of population in the UK and a widely recognised digital alliance with Bristol and Manchester, so becoming a super-connected city is crucial to keep us at the forefront of the technology revolution," she argued earlier this year.
“I am delighted that the Chancellor has recognised the ‘Let Brighton Bid’ campaign to secure ultra fast broadband for the city – and I welcome the £50 million promised in the Budget for smaller cities like ours to now bid to become super-connected," said Lucas following today’s budget speech. "Our digital industries are crucial to the Brighton and Hove economy and if they’re to remain competitive for the future, we urgently need ultra fast broadband.”