DORSET’S highways portfolio holder Ray Bryan has pledged to never return to the days of ‘salami slicing’ highways budgets.

Cllr Bryan says under previous county council administrations the roads had become an easy target when savings needed to be made – but the policy had resulted in greater spending overall and staff constantly playing catch up.

The current estimate for the backlog of road repairs in the Dorset Council area runs to £203million and £19.5million for footpaths.

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Cllr Bryan’s comments came during a discussion on a new highways management policy which seeks to be more reactive, taking action before problems arise.

Cllr Bryan claimed that, compared with neighbouring council areas, Dorset’s main routes were in an overall good condition – although he admitted he would like to spend more of smaller roads.

If the council's new policy meets the approval of the Department of Transport it will guarantee £2m of incentivised funding to be added to a proposed five-year annual commitment of £6.7m of council money to top up highway maintenance work.

The council’s place and resources overview committee was told that the county’s roads and pavements were probably the biggest asset the council has, valued at £6.4billion  – and also the most likely subject to generate complaints from council taxpayers when holes and cracks started to appear.

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“People underestimate the hard work which goes into maintaining highways. We need to concentrate on the main routes which means the smaller roads are sometimes facing challenges which we will deal with in time,” said Cllr Bryan.

He told the committee that work was underway on plans to improve verge cutting, drainage and gully emptying and on what he described a preventative maintenance.

In 2021-22 Dorset Council invested an additional £6.3m into highway maintenance, including footpaths, drainage and signs, to counter a £4m reduction in Government maintenance funding. The annual maintenance budget runs to over £20m.