Home News If levelling up is crucial for the UK, then connecting communities must be high on the agenda

If levelling up is crucial for the UK, then connecting communities must be high on the agenda

By: Darren Zitren, partner at Cluttons

by uma

Connectivity is key to jobs, performance and investment, but also for education, health and social care. If one region is more connected than others then we, as a nation, have failed in our mission to level up. This cannot be fixed overnight – after all, there are still some parts of the UK that have little to no connection at all – the notorious not-spots, mainly confined to rural areas.  

But these will need to be fixed if we want to regain our place as a world leader in infrastructure and support the notion of hybrid working supporting (rather than hampering) increased productivity. 

Our latest research, completed in partnership with YouGov found that even today, 15% of consumers said they had inconsistent signal strength in their house on a daily basis. 

When delving deeper, we found that there were several key challenges that was hampering the rollout – most notably a major lack of understanding of 5G and Gigabit –  by MPs, consumers and councillors; a lack of funding, an unhelpful planning process and not enough collaboration between local authorities, landowners and digital infrastructure providers – the latter of which needs a boost to align our digital ambitions. 

Councillors reporting that their local authority had a digital strategy in place (under half according to our findings) were four times more likely to say their authority has an effective relationship with electronic communications network operators and are doing enough to smooth the way for communications infrastructure roll out and equipment, and three times more likely to believe they had the information they needed to raise awareness and understanding, and to promote and improve connectivity as a priority for the local area.  

Under a third have appointed a ‘digital champion’. 

Could we find ourselves in the situation where a sort of postcode lottery emerges whereby those that live in an area which is supported by a digital champion may well benefit from better connectivity thanks to know-how and more effective telecoms relationships?  This is not in the spirit of levelling up which aims to ensure that where you live does not limit your opportunities. But if connectivity is critical to jobs, investment and education for example then the most connected regions will perform better and more regional gaps will develop. Connecting the UK therefore must be a priority and we would like to see a much greater proportion of ‘levelling up’ funding diverted to the crucial development of infrastructure in order to make this happen. 

Not only will we be sharing our findings across the industry, with local authorities and key stakeholders, in the spirit of much-needed collaboration we will also be gathering together a group of subject matter experts to form recommendations that aim to provide solutions. Connectivity affects everyone but we believe the property industry can play a crucial role in helping the Government navigate these challenges. 

As per the Public Accounts Committee report – we are behind on the Government target of 85% technical coverage by 2025 with 100% as soon as possible thereafter and we risk further slippage. This is not quick enough – it’s time we all worked together to help the UK get back on track to meet our targets, connect communities and supercharge the UK’s Gigabit roll-out. 

For those who wish to get involved, visit https://www.cluttons.com/insights/property-market-research/1034-connecting-the-uk 

 

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