Hammond talked fibre, 5G and tax during Tuesday’s spring statement

UK CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond named the first areas to receive £95m from the government’s full-fibre fund during his vague statement on Tuesday. 

During the 20-minute update, Hammond – who described his mood as “positively Tigger-like” – confirmed the first £95m allocation from the government’s £190m Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) challenge fund, first announcing during last year’s autumn statement. 

The fund, UK gov explains, will go towards a series of projects that “seek to stimulate the market by making the deployment of gigabit-capable full fibre infrastructure more commercially viable.”

Some of the successful projects include using hospitals and GP surgeries as “anchor tenants” to provide a full-fibre “hub” which surrounding homes and businesses can hook up to; upgrading schools, libraries and emergency response buildings to gigabit-capable full fibre connections; and creating “fibre spines” along major transport routes and public building networks.  

The areas to receive the £95m fibre-injection were named on Tuesday as Armagh City, Belfast, Blackpool, Cambridgeshire, Cardiff, Coventry, The Highlands, London, Manchester, Mid Sussex, North Yorkshire, Portsmouth, and Wolverhampton.

Hammond also used his spring statement to reaffirm the government’s commitment to 5G, confirming £25m from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) that will be used to a series of 5G testbeds across the country. 

The Chancellor also turned his attention to the issue of taxing large tech firms, such as Apple, Google and Facebook, announcing that there will be a consultation on the issue.

“Corporate tax rules respond to the modernisation of the economy and deliver appropriate results for digital businesses that generate value in a unique way,” Hammond said.

This hasn’t gone down well with Lawrence Jones, CEO of biz-hosting firm UKFast, who said that while it’s “encouraging” that there’s going to be a consultation on the issue of US tech giants’ tax affairs, it’s not a strong enough message from UK gov. 

“If all UK entrepreneurs took advantage of the tax rules that apply to these off-shore businesses, Britain would collapse,” Jones said.

“It’s the tax-paying SMEs that prop this country up and, at present, the UK taxpayer is being taken for a ride by the tax affairs of these companies. We need action on this issue as a matter of urgency. µ

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