Rod Bluh urged to resign as Swindon free wi-fi project fails
- 2 September 2011
- From the section Wiltshire
The failure of a project to roll out free wireless internet across Swindon has led to calls for the resignation of the council leader.
In 2009, the borough council lent operator Digital City UK £400,000 to roll out the technology in the town but the firm has now gone bust.
Opposition Labour councillors have now called for Conservative council leader Rod Bluh to step down.
Mr Bluh said the council should have examined potential risks more closely.
"We did all the due diligence [on the project] but perhaps in hindsight we should have looked at the risk factors a bit harder.
"We were prepared to take the risk and we felt it was a managed risk at the time and, with hindsight, perhaps it wasn't the best risk."
'Catalogue of errors'
Swindon Borough Council had a 35% stake in Digital City on the project which would have involved wi-fi points being mounted on lamp-posts.
But the rollout - beyond the pilot which took place in Highworth - did not happen.
Labour's Jim Grant said it was possible the borough council would not be able to get the money back.
"Clearly in this case £400,000 has not been spent wisely and arguably it's been lost to Swindon.
"This whole episode reflects badly on Swindon and when businesses are looking to invest in this town, if they see what a catalogue of errors they've made over Digital City then they're going to be put off."
Mr Grant said the town's deputy leader, Garry Perkins, who also served on the board of the firm, and the council leader should "tender their resignation for the good of the people of Swindon".
Mr Bluh said a new investor would come in and rescue the project and cover the council's £400,000 investment.
"I think I can fairly confidently say the money is not repayable from Digital City. I am fairly confident in saying it will be repaid in the long term."