CLAIMING that it has cut its funding for footpaths by 30 per cent, on top of previous cuts of 20 per cent, The Ramblers say Poole Council is a contributor to its “councils of concern”.

The organisation’s Paths in Crisis report points out that Borough of Poole also has a large backlog of paths waiting to be recognised as public rights of way.

However, Borough of Poole, which has approximately 30 miles of Rights of Way, disputes the figures.

“The figures quoted in the Ramblers report are somewhat misleading as there has actually been no reduction in the rights of way budget over the last two years,” said Steve Tite, traffic manager, Borough of Poole.

“The discrepancy is due to the fact that we have now accounted for the costs associated with legal support in a separate budget, which obviously gives the impression that the Rights of Way budget has been cut.”

Poole spends around £42,740 a year managing its network of footpaths, with a further £8,500 spent on maintenance works.

The Ramblers has teams of volunteers working with 44 councils in England, including Dorset which it says has one of the lowest budgets per mile of footpath, who go out to clear overgrown paths, put up signposts and fix broken stiles and bridges.

Ramblers are calling on councils to work with them to repair path problems, stop severe cuts to rights of way budgets and clear up the backlog of work for recording paths as rights of way.

“Blocked and overgrown paths put people off from getting outside at a time when we need to be making it easier, not harder, for everyone to get more active,” said Benedict Southworth, Ramblers chief executive.

“We know walking is one of the nation’s favourite past-times, with visitors to England’s great outdoors spending £21 billion last year.”

“Keeping paths clear is a small cost compared to the huge benefits they can bring to tourism, the economy and the nation’s health and happiness and it is vital that councils properly invest in them.”