A LOCAL government-led partnership created to deliver high speed broadband infrastructure to isolated communities is “inefficient and chaotic” West Devon councillors have claimed. 

At an overview and scrutiny committee, councillors said hundreds of homes and businesses were affected by slow broadband speeds and delays in work to install cables. 

They are calling on Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the largest publicly subsidised rural broadband programme in England – to appear at a future meeting, together with contractor Airband. 

The organisation, led by senior councillors and officers from the two counties, claims more than 320,000 homes and businesses already have access to superfast broadband as a direct result of its investment, more than any other broadband programme in England. 

CDS says it invests in areas not served by commercial providers, giving customers access to superfast broadband. It was set up by Devon County Council, Somerset Council and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology with funding from the European Union. 

However, councillors shared stories of problems across the area, where people were having to dig their own trenches for cables, and experiencing wifi connections dropping out up to 100 times a day. 

In a letter to councillors, Joshua England, who runs a farm near Lewtrenchard, said he had suffered problems for six weeks which have not been resolved despite multiple visits by CDS. 

He also explained that he pays the same as customers in more populated areas but broadband speeds are less than half of what they receive. 

Despite fibre broadband having been installed nearby, he is still on copper cables: “We are stuck in a frustrating and costly situation and we have no mobile signal either,” he said. 

Cllr Lynn Daniel (Green, South Tawton) said full-fibre was being installed in her ward but nothing had happened for months. 

Deputy chief executive Steve Mullineaux said that during the CDS rollout there had been a number of technology failures on 30,000 care devices. 

“People in our area cannot wait till 2027 until technology catches up, if we do not speak up for those people, it will be 2029 or 2032 before they are connected,” said Cllr Isabel Saxby (Lab, Bere Ferrers). 

She said Gulworthy residents had been waiting two years and had been told they had to dig their own trench if they had copper cables to gain access to Airband. 

“If you are elderly or disabled, how are you going to do this? Meanwhile you are cut off and cannot talk to your family. These people need to be held accountable. It’s taxpayer’s money.” 

Cllr Neil Jory (Con, Milton Ford), lead member for the economy, said customers should make complaints to communications regulator Ofcom, but the council would also “flex its muscles” to try and help the situation. 

He said at one point the authority had a broadband officer in place to help get communities connected and build up a relationship with CDS and Airband but funding was no longer available for that role. 

“It’s a strategic aim of ours to promote faster broadband, many rural businesses are reliant on it,” he said. “It’s been a very frustrating exercise, we have pushed really hard but our over-riding impression of CDS is that it is inefficient and chaotic and left us in situation where we are not getting the service we should be receiving.” 

Connecting Devon and Somerset was approached for a comment, but no reply was received. 

With the announcement of the July 4 general election, candidates from a number of parties will be standing for election. The full list of candidates is as follows: 

Torridge and Tavistock: Geoffrey Cox – Conservative, Isabel Angela Saxby – Labour, Phil Hutty – Liberal Democrats, Andrew Jackson – Reform UK, Judy Maciejowska – Green Party, Philip Peers – Social Democratic Party, Alan Edward Rayner – Independent.