FAST broadband internet is set to benefit schools, doctors surgeries and village halls after a £4.5m boost secured by councils.

Homes and businesses are also expected to benefit from the programme.

The boost is the result of a successful bid to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport by south Essex councils working under the banner of the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA).

The funding will deliver improved connectivity to 214 sites in the South Essex corridor, including locations in Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford and Thurrock.

The money will help take gigabit speed broadband to rural and hard-to-reach areas of South Essex, with the expectation that this leads to broadband providers creating additional connections to homes and businesses.

Louise McKinlay, chair of ASELA, said: “It is fantastic news that collectively we have secured funding that will have a huge impact on the whole of south Essex and start to improve infrastructure across the area.

“The power of connectivity is continuing to shape the way we work, live and play, and so it is very important that we continue to lead and innovate in the future”.