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Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram launches game changing new digital partnership

METRO Mayor Steve Rotheram has announced the launch of a new ₤30m partnership that will help make the Liverpool City Region the most digitally connected area in the UK and ultimately lead to a ₤1 billion boost to the local economy. Work has already begun on a 212km full fibre, gigabit capable network infrastructure that will help position the Region at the head of the next digital revolution. When complete, it will put City Region businesses in prime position to lead the way in a host of growing sectors, from health and life sciences to Artificial Intelligence and advanced manufacturing.

˝ owned by the City Region's Combined Authority, headed up by Mayor Steve Rotheram, the full fibre infrastructure will be capable of delivering speeds of 1,000mbps and beyond. The LCR Digital Infrastructure Project is a joint venture ˝ owned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority in partnership with North West based ITS Technology Group, who will lead the project, working alongside construction partner NGE, who are managing the build and roll out of the network. Alongside existing local digital infrastructure, the new fibre optic network will help position the City Region as a world leader in digital technology. Experts estimate that with 100% full fibre coverage across the City Region, building on this network, the economic boost could be worth up to ₤1bn, creating thousands of local job and training opportunities.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:- "When I was elected, I made it a priority to make our Region the most digitally connected anywhere in the country. Today we take a major step towards that, with the launch of this exciting partnership. Our Region was at the heart of the first industrial revolution, and I believe that this project can help us be at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, creating thousands of jobs and ultimately generating ₤1bn for the local economy. It will make us leaders in the industries of tomorrow and will help us attract talent and investment from around the world as others look to take advantage of our skills, infrastructure and expertise. Local people and businesses will feel the benefits too; in the form of significantly faster speeds as well as the jobs and training opportunities, although the Government still needs to tackle the problem of digital exclusion. And, best of all, it will all be 50% owned by us so we can continue to reap the benefits for years to come. As we have done so many times before, this is our Region seizing the initiative, leading the way and crafting what I hope will be a lucrative and successful new future that everybody in our Region can benefit from."

In its initial phase, the consortium will create a resilient fibre:- 'backhaul network,' connecting 3 transatlantic cables and major economic clusters in each of the Liverpool City Region's 6 Local Authority areas. Digital infrastructure will be installed in carriageways, footpaths and cycle ways across the City Region over the next 2 years, using innovative deployment techniques to minimise the impact on road and public transport users wherever possible.

Cllr David Baines, Digital Connectivity and Inclusion Portfolio Holder and Leader of St Helens Council, said:- "Being digitally connected is more important for our Region than ever before so I am pleased we are moving at pace with this important work. This is a transformational project, 1 which will not only help our City Region recover from Covid19, but help us rebuild our economy better than before. Gigabit capable connectivity creates a huge opportunity for those living and working in all 6 of our boroughs, through attracting global companies and industries and creating more jobs."

Daren Baythorpe, CEO of ITS Technology Group, said:- "ITS is delighted to be awarded this contract and be part of the team rolling out full fibre across the Liverpool City Region. This programme will have a transformational effect for everyone in the Region and we are excited to be playing a central role in its delivery. As shareholder partners in the Joint Venture we are proud to be contributing significantly to the tremendous growth in the digital economy of the Region, and supporting national targets for full fibre access by 2033. The awarding of the contract further confirms ITS's place as a leading next generation network provider in the UK focused on helping businesses develop in the digital age. ITS with its expert team has a track record in deploying and managing gigabit capable full fibre networks, that help to drive innovation and productivity."

Antoine Metzger, Chairman of NHE, said:- "NGE is proud to be part of the joint venture appointed to support the transformation of Liverpool City Region. Our local subsidiary; NGE Contracting; has won a project that will shape the City. We bring to the JV our expertise in infrastructure financing (through NGE Concessions) and our capabilities in the implementation of a high quality digital network (through NGE Infranet). Using labour and resources from within the Liverpool City Region, this project is also a fantastic opportunity to deploy our infrastructure development and finance expertise in cities across the UK such as Liverpool."

Alison Kennedy, Director of the Hartree Centre, at STFC's Daresbury Laboratory, said:- "The powerful computing capability at the Hartree Centre underpins our work with a range of companies to help them benefit from advanced digital technologies. This faster connectivity infrastructure will allow us reach even more companies and support their growth. A number of companies have already co-located at Sci-Tech Daresbury, including IBM Research. Being linked to one of the fastest digital infrastructures in the country is a strong incentive for additional SMEs and larger companies to expand their presence in the Region."

264,800 Help to Save accounts opened

MORE than 264,000 individuals have opened a Help to Save account, statistics from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have revealed. 'Help to Save' is the Government backed savings scheme that allows individuals to earn a 50p bonus for every ₤1 saved over 4 years. The 50% bonus is payable at the end of the 2nd and 4th year and is based on how much account holders have saved. Account holders can save up to ₤50 a month. If they save the maximum amount each month for four years, they could save ₤2,400 and earn ₤1,200 in bonus payments. More than 42,000 new Help to Save accounts were created between August 2020 and January 2021. Individuals can check the Help to Save eligibility criteria and find out how to apply via GOV.UK.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC's Deputy Chief Executive, said:- "The Help to Save scheme has helped more than 264,000 individuals open a savings account. And regular savers can earn up to ₤1,200 in bonus payments, over four years. It is easy to set up an account, just search:- 'help to save' on GOV.UK."

Almost 217,000 individuals have made a deposit to their Help to Save account. Of those depositing into their savings account, the average monthly deposit per person is ₤48, as of 31 January 2021. The total deposits to the scheme in the 6 month period, August 2020 to January 2021, exceeded ₤40 million. This is the highest recorded amount saved in a 6 month period, since the scheme began in September 2018.

Individuals can open a Help to Save account if any of the following applies. They are:-

Receiving Working Tax Credit.

Entitled to Working Tax Credit and receiving Child Tax Credit.

Claiming Universal Credit and they (with their partner, if it's a joint claim) earned ₤604.56 or more from paid work in their last monthly assessment period.

Eligible individuals can set up a Help to Save savings account at any time until September 2023. Accounts are open for four years and individuals can make deposits as many times as they like, without going over the monthly saving limit of ₤50. Individuals can also withdraw money at any time, although this may affect their 50% bonus payments. The 1st bonus payment has already been paid out to thousands of individuals, who opened accounts between 12 September 2018 and February 2019.

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