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The European Commission (EC) has hit back at criticism from the UK government over delays to the release of state aid funding for rural broadband initiatives.

Earlier this month, the EC cleared the government to release £530 million in public funding through its Broadband Delivery UK vehicle, following a lengthy hold-up.

The EC had raised concerns over the level of competition in the UK's rural broadband tender process - with only BT and Fujitsu meeting the criteria to bid for infrastructure projects.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller claimed she had managed to "bring the rural broadband programme out from under stifling EU bureaucracy".

However, Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the EC and Commissioner for Competition, has hit back at the minister over these comments.

He claimed that Brussels bureaucrats had "worked faster than their London colleagues".

"Politicians on both sides of the Channel must avoid red tape, but the real origin of the delays should also be made clear," Mr Almunia told the Financial Times.

"We asked the UK government last February to supply the necessary information to us and only received a complete answer in October."

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