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Virgin Media believes a significant proportion of the £150 million Urban Broadband Fund should be used to improve digital skills within UK business.

The firm's Chief Executive Neil Berkett said the government has a "huge opportunity" to drive growth through the expansion of digital skills in small companies in particular.

In an open letter to Chancellor George Osborne ahead of the 2013 Budget, he claimed that growth within this sector is "critical" for the future success of the UK economy.

Mr Berkett argued that the potential benefits offered by digital technologies are not currently being realised by UK businesses.

"Only two-thirds have a website and a third sell goods and services online," he noted.

"Both the government’s own Digital Champion and e-skills delivery body identify the central barrier to small businesses realising those benefits as a lack of practical, digital skills and shortage of resources to undertake digital training."

He said action is needed from government to support small businesses to better understand and utilise the benefits of digital channels.

The Virgin Media CEO called for a minimum of 50 per cent of the £150 million Urban Broadband Fund to be allocated to training in this area.

He also called on the Chancellor to enhance the role of Minister for Broadband by giving the post an "explicit remit to promote economic growth, and oversee cross-departmental work on digital capability".

"As you prepare your Budget, we urge you to seize the opportunity to provide a much-needed boost to the UK economy and the growth prospects of small and medium-sized enterprises across the nation," Mr Berkett wrote.

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