Highways funding ‘unfair’ says Dorset’s Head of Highways

The current funding allocation method for highways does not help ‘shire# counties, as it means the money is spread too thin, according to Jack Wiltshire, Head of Highways at Dorset Council.

He told his councillors last week that with the low funding spread over a relatively lengthy road network Dorset Council struggled to make improvements to its road infrastructure.

“We don’t get funding per kilometre, which is not favourable to us… we have a relatively long network and can do very little in terms of investment in the network with the Department for Transport funding because its, proportionately, so small,” he said.

“The formula does not help a Shire county and its very difficult to invest that money in things like road safety measures when it is spread so thinly.”

Dorset is third from bottom in the national ‘league table’ for its funding, reports Planet Radio.

It gets just under £2million a year from the Government for road improvements, including safety measures, for its 4,000km of road – compared to £3m for neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole which only has 800kms.

The Place and Resources scrutiny committee heard that the situation had been made worse because the funding from Government to rural Dorset had not increased since 2015/16.

Highways and climate portfolio holder Cllr Ray Bryan said that while the grant had, effectively, gone down, material costs had been increasing by 30 per cent.

“We are having conversations with the Department for Transport and I am speaking to our MPs to get our voice heard in Parliament about the unfair treatment of Dorset,” he said.

Parallels have also been drawn between bus funding from the Government – with the BCP council area receiving £9million last year to improve services with rural Dorset receiving nothing.

The committee heard that use of buses in Dorset had dropped by 30per cent from baseline figures in 2019, the useage made worse during Covid.

On a more positive note the committee heard that road casualties in the county had nearly halved since 2021 and the number killed and seriously injured was down by 32per cent. Cycling trips have also increased since 2021 – up by 21 per cent in Weymouth and by similar amounts where cycleways have been introduced at Ham Lane, Ferndown and Leigh Road, Wimborne.

A total of 2,942 electric vehicles were registered in Dorset by the end of 2021.


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