Bridport’s successful Lengthsman scheme must be kept going – despite the county council slashing funding.
That was the view of town councillors who heard with dismay that Dorset County is halving its support for the scheme this year and then pulling the plug on cash support.
The Lengthsman scheme, which provides a service doing highly localised highway maintenance for the town and neighbouring parishes, has proved hugely popular.
The Bridport Area Lengthsman scheme started in July 2010. The support for the scheme was initiated through the Bridport Local Area Partnership.
Initially, the scheme started with the Town Council and Bothenhampton and Walditch and Symondsbury parish councils. In January, 2011, Bradpole Parish Council joined the scheme. On an ad hoc basis, some work has also been carried out for Puncknowle and Swyre Parish Council.
Town clerk Bob Gillis said: “The future of the scheme has been considered by the county council and they have written to say that they will provide financial support for the scheme for one more year only and their funding has been reduced to £5,000 for 2013-14.
“The participating parish councils have agreed to continue in the scheme and have stated how much they value the work of the Lengthsman.”
Town and county councillor Karl Wallace said he thought the county was ‘very short-sighted’ in pulling out.
“They are very, very stubborn in their attitude. “To me it does not make any sense at all.
“The scheme will go from strength to strength and the county will end up with egg on its face.”
Mayor Coun Dave Rickard said he did not think the town should accept the county decision as their last word on the issue.
“The county has a duty of care towards parish maintenance and they are abdicating their responsibilities.
“This is a model which is looked on with envy by other towns. We need to keep trying to persuade them.”
The committee agreed to continue the scheme for 2013/2014, noting the reduced funding from the county council.
Chairman Coun Martin Ray said: “It is ridiculous. The Lengthsman does the work for about 25 per cent of the price of the county council. “If the county were to do the job it would cost more, but I suspect they just would not do the job.”