A COMPANY tasked with connecting homes in Somerset to superfast broadband has admitted it’s ‘significantly’ behind schedule.

Connecting Devon and Somerset, a government-led broadband programme, aimed to get 96 per cent of premises across the two rural counties connected by 2020.

Currently at 86 per cent, it was revealed in June the second phase of the roll-out had been slowed due to contractor Carillion’s collapse.

Further delays were in place after another contractor McNicholas joined the Kier Group.

Prediction dates of when communities such as Blagdon Hill, Bradford on Tone, Brean, and Buckland St Mary have now been removed from the website.

Gigaclear CEO Mike Surrey said: “I would like to apologise for the delays in delivering a full fibre network across rural Devon and Somerset. While the first customers are now connected in East Devon, the project is running significantly behind schedule and we accept our performance to date has fallen short of the high standards that we set for ourselves."

Mr Surrey said reviews are taking place to spot where problems occurred to prevent them happening again. He added Gigaclear will foot the bill for any additional costs incurred and there will be no increase to the level of public subsidy.

County councillor John Thorne, who has previously voiced his frustration with the broadband provider, said the situation is a ‘complete mess’.

He said: “Gigaclear wont meet their targets and will face no financial penalty.

“They don’t seem to have a clue. I can’t tell you how much of a disaster this is. This isn’t good enough. People have no idea when or if they will get connected. Heads have got to roll.”

Somerset County Council said it’s ‘disappointed’ in Gigaclear, but recognises CDS has already connected more than 100,000 homes and businesses in Somerset.

David Hall, the Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “This delay is obviously very disappointing for the CDS board and our residents.

“We take some reassurance that Gigaclear will carry any additional costs that come with this delay and it has made a strong commitment to keeping communities informed and delivering what it has been contracted to deliver, as quickly as possible. We are aware of various steps already taken and will monitor progress closely.

“We must not forget that CDS is the largest programme of its kind in England and has already delivered Superfast broadband for 118,000 homes and businesses in Somerset.”

Cllr John Williams, leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “It is extremely disappointing that we are this far into the contract with Gigaclear with no tangible progress and prior to this, no communication with our communities.

"We are a predominately rural area that in the main lacks a decent broadband service and Gigaclear has failed to deliver to date.They are now well aware of this and are preparing a new plan as to how they may deliver their contractual commitments albeit later than anticipated."