UNDER-FIRE wi-fi provider Digital City is being called on to pay back the money it owes to Swindon Council immediately.

The internet provider owes £350,000 to the council, and on Tuesday revealed it is looking for extra investment for the project – even though it has struggled to meet its existing targets.

Now Labour group leader Derique Montaut has called for the £350,000 borrowed so far to be returned to council coffers right away, saying Tuesday’s announcement calls the viability of the project into question.

Coun Montaut, (Labour, Central), said: “The £350,000, we need that back in our coffers. I’m calling for it now.

“Their performance indicators haven’t been met.

“It’s time now to get our money back.

“There must be some underlying concerns for business performance.

“The announcement looking for another partner raises a broader question of the viability of the company and whether it can be sustained in the marketplace.”

At the moment, the loan agreement between the council and Digital City means all the cash needs to be repaid to the council by October 2011.

If not, the council can seize control of all of Digital City’s assets.

Council leader Rod Bluh (Con, Dorcan) said talks about new investment were at a sensitive stage.

He said: “The negotiations are about securing new investment for the project to enable it to go forward, and there’s the assumption the loan will be repaid as part of that new investment.

“The private sector wouldn’t be investing further money into this business if it wasn’t a good prospect.

“We’re not looking for failure on this, we’re looking for success.

“Just because the roll-out hasn’t gone as smoothly as possible they assume it’s failed.”

Coun Montaut has also demanded an end to the arrangement which sees Digital City pay no rent on its offices in the David Murray John building in the town centre and says the council should either charge market rent or let the space be used by community groups.

Andrew Kilpatrick, the senior partner at commercial property experts Thomsons in Commercial Road, said he estimated the floorspace used to be about 4,500 sq ft.

At £5 per sq ft, this would work out at an annual rent of £22,500.

But a spokesman for the council said that it would not be possible to rent the space commercially anyway – because it is not compatible with disability legislation.

The head of Digital City, Rikki Hunt, was unavailable for comment.