TWO Saddleworth councillors are calling on Oldham Council to make major improvements to its plans for better broadband across the borough to boost local businesses.

Garth Harkness (Saddleworth North ward) and Sam Al-Hamdani (Saddleworth West and Lees) made the call citing "substantial changes" in working patterns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The say it has emphasised the need to deliver high-quality fibre optic broadband to homes across the area.

They have written to the council to ask if it is reviewing the current contract for broadband infrastructure, and in particular, to develop new infrastructure across Saddleworth, where the current system seems least able to cope.

Cllr Al-Hamdani also challenged Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA at a meeting to ensure that the programme was reviewed as part of the its plans around digital exclusion as part of their Living with Covid plan.

Cllr Garth Harkness said: “With so many online meetings for so many people, it has really brought home how much of an issue this is across Saddleworth.

"We need to be building a stable, secure, high-speed internet across the whole area – which makes it easier for domestic users to stay connected, and which can be the backbone of Saddleworth’s economy going forward.

"The Greater Manchester Combined Authorities decided to award a £24 million contract to Virgin Media shortly just before the pandemic hit. A co-operative model – which has been successful in delivering low-cost access for businesses elsewhere –would create a long-term infrastructure that could benefit public services and businesses.

Cllr Sam Al-Hamdani said: “Local businesses are struggling and under threat. We need to do everything we can to support them.

"We need to ensure that employees and businesses who work remotely have the broadband infrastructure they need to do that well.

"And if more people work from home, it can deliver a knock-on boost to local high street shops – if people aren’t commuting to work, they are more likely to make use of the local stores.

"It’s a win for the local business all round.”