Aylesbury Vale Broadband row continues

Councillor Llew Monger has clashed with Janet Blake over Aylesbury Vale Broadband
Councillor Llew Monger has clashed with Janet Blake over Aylesbury Vale Broadband

A Winslow Councillor has claimed that Cllr Janet Blake’s portrayal as the Aylesbury Vale Broadband sale as a success has been ‘misleading’, questioning several claims in their press release last week.

AVDC claimed last week that they were “extremely proud” of AVB’s achievements, and hoped that Gigiclear would “build on the great foundations that we’ve laid.” Not everyone is impressed, however.

Councillor for Winslow, Llew Monger said: “Cllrs Mrs Blake continues to make misleading claims about AVB including that it supplies seven villages. This is simply not borne out by the evidence on the ground. Also the press release claims almost 300 customers when in fact it is only 234.

"AVDC continue to hide the details from both Council, members and the public but it looks as though it has cost has cost a staggering £5,000 to connect each of those customers!

“Even if the total AVDC investment is recovered by the purchase price paid by Gigaclear this exercise is has been a monumental failure of management by the controlling group on AVDC. To add insult to injury it also looks like the AVB customers will face a 20% increase in service costs to maintain the same levels of service via the new operators.

"And now, as if to emphasise the total failure of AVDC’s attempt to become a ‘commercial’ organisation we see in the papers for next week’s cabinet meeting that Vale Commerce, the authorities flagship commercial holding company, is to be wound up.”

Tracey Aldworth, AVDC Director and AVB Board Member has provided an in depth response to the above claims:

"When AVB was launched in 2015 its aim was to bring high speed broadband to rural parts of Aylesbury Vale that couldn’t receive it. At the time, Connected Counties was not delivering in Aylesbury Vale and there were no other incumbent suppliers. Since launch, AVB has provided fibre to the home (FTTH) connections to customers in 7 villages (Granborough, Hoggeston, Soulbury, Swanbourne, North Marston, Stewkley, Dunton), with fibre laid in two more (Oving and Drayton Parslow) that are still to be connected. The network passes circa 2000 properties but even in rural areas take-up requires time to grow.

"Arguably, as a result of AVB’s success other commercial companies have entered into the local market and one of them, Gigaclear, expressed interest and subsequently purchased the assets of the business. Gigaclear’s commitment to growing the network in Aylesbury Vale was a deciding factor in the decision to sell and the sale will enable the network to grow faster than it otherwise could, meaning more residents will have access to reliable high-speed broadband. Therefore, AVB has achieved its primary objective and can confidently be described as a success.

"Due to Gigaclear’s requirement for commercial confidentiality in respect of the sale price our hands are tied and we are not able to respond to comments about the subscriber base or commercial arrangements at this time. However, Cllr Monger has been party to confidential details of the sale and voted in favour at the General Purposes committee meeting of the Council on 30 November.

"Cllr Monger’s statement that subscribers face a 20% increase in cost for their broadband provision is also factually incorrect and misleading. In reality, no regular customers will pay more next year than they did last year for the equivalent service and some will pay less and/or receive a faster service. For example, business customers on the AVB Ultrafast product will actually pay 43% less than previously and receive much higher speeds too.

"It is good business practice to undertake a review of businesses and to take the learnings forward to future ventures. In this instance, the Council approved a motion to appoint an independent auditor to conduct a review of the business and report their findings to the Audit Committee. This is very different to a ‘full independent inquiry’ referred to by Cllrs Monger and Christensen in some of their recent statements.

"Finally, the board’s decision to mothball Vale Commerce is completely unrelated to the AVB sale and simply reflects the fact that AVDC now has better ways to market services and therefore Vale Commerce has become superfluous, as is the dynamic nature of commercial business. The trading brands Incgen and Limecart will transfer and in future be managed alongside AVDC’s other services."