A COUNTY councillor says he is willing to put £2m of council money into ambitious plans to make Pembrokeshire the best digitally connected place in Wales or even the UK.

Cabinet member for economy Cllr Paul Miller has made improving the county’s internet speeds a major priority.

“Sitting on the very western tip of Wales it is obvious to anyone that we’re never going to be the best connected county in terms of road or rail – that we accept” said Cllr Miller.

“We could, however, be the best digitally connected place in Wales, maybe even the UK. That’s our ambition.”

Announcing his plan – and acknowledging the scale of the challenge – Cllr Miller said there “weren’t many things I could do, that would have as big an impact on the Pembrokeshire economy as dramatically improving our digital connectivity.”

Cllr Miller has outlined a number of steps the council will take to increase broadband speeds, particularly in rural areas, including employing a team of people to help communities access funding.

It also includes crating a £2m pot of council funding to top up grant funding, subject to cabinet approval.

“Two million pounds will not be enough, but it’s a start. If the Prime Minister really wants to deliver by 2025, we will be looking to him for more.

“We’ve applied for funding under the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN). We know the outcome of that application, but I cannot yet say. Let us assume though that we will be successful.

“That funding enables us, by 2021, to connect up a large number of public sector buildings – GP surgeries, libraries, leisure centres – to full fibre broadband. It creates a great base from which suppliers will make full fibre connections available to the homes and businesses nearby,” he added.

The county will be divided into 80 “project areas” with prices sought on connecting every property to full fibre broad band and despite “some big number” Cllr Miller believes it can be done.

The council will also “get out of the way” he said by not refusing broadband providers permission to use its land while the highways team explores innovative ways of using the existing network to connect homes.

“I want our residents to know we are on the case. I want government to know that we are ready to get stuck in. I want business in Pembrokeshire to know that we are determined to get them better connected.

“And perhaps most importantly, I want businesses all over the UK to know, that there’s a dynamic, forward-thinking county on the tip of West Wales that’s getting itself connected and which is open for business,” said Cllr Miller.