The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) construction output figures were released on 12th November, showing a positive investment level – since the dramatic drop during the first lockdown. Aside from home and commercial construction, one section of the report focuses on spending on infrastructure.
It was announced last year that the government’s target was to provide gigabit broadband to the whole of the UK by 2025. This launched a countrywide public and private investment boom, which gained momentum from March but has been hampered by the pandemic. However, infrastructure spending jumped 17% between quarter two and three, bringing output back in line with the same time in 2019, circa £2.05bn.
Since the beginning of the year, I have found it interesting to see the conversations that have taken place around broadband infrastructure. As a country, we are so far behind others in this area, and this was highlighted by the Coronavirus lockdown with many businesses forced to work from home. For many small businesses, this would have been costly, not only with technology but also the cost of loss of productivity as I have previously spoken about.
We provide support services to SMEs and have seen first-hand the frustrations of trying to run a business in such rural areas, so the impact of being forced to work from home has only amplified the need for upgraded infrastructure and improved accessibility.
For many years, the government has provided support for rural SMEs via the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. The scheme, launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, offers vouchers to install gigabit broadband connections to rural areas. The voucher scheme offers SMEs (defined as up to 249 employees) up to £3,500 to arrange for an upgrade from a range of private companies approved for the upgrades. Also, up to £1,500 is available for households to provide connectivity options for rural homes too. I had not heard much about the scheme recently, until September when the government announced their £22million injection into the scheme.
Applying for the government scheme will assist the government in their plans and provide upgrades to whole communities through grants. Small businesses that may now wish to utilise a flexible working solution for their employees should be looking into the grants for their business and their employees. Both can find out more on the government website: www.gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk.
If you need any more advice on your businesses IT infrastructure, or remote working, get in contact for a no-obligation consultation.