PARTS of rural Dorset are unable to support industrial development, or even housing, because of inadequate power systems.

Only around five per cent of the county has fibre broadband and many parts have antiquated water and sewage systems which would not support further development.

The facts of chronic under-investment were laid out before Dorset Council’s ruling all-Conservative Cabinet meeting on Tuesday as it prepared to adopt a new strategy for economic growth and to reverse the trend.

The councillor behind the strategy document warned that unless investment increased many of the jobs likely to be created in the years to come in rural Dorset would likely to be part time or poorly paid.

Said Cllr Gary Suttle: “We have areas of deprivation, some of the worst wage levels, generations of families who have had no work; about 20 per cent of our businesses employ lower than the national average of people; we have only 1 per cent of large businesses and yet they employ 20 per cent of our workforce. We need to ensure they remain and are supported.

“It’s a disappointing statistic that we will have 11,000 new jobs in Dorset by 2027, but most will be part-time. How can a family survive on a part-time wage?…we need to give people the opportunity to have good jobs, well-paid jobs, to lead lives that give them enjoyment, not misery.”

The meeting also heard criticism of the Dorset-wide body, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which is supposed to invest Government money to improve the county’s economy – yet, according to council deputy chairman Cllr Peter Wharf has consistently failed to ensure that rural Dorset gets its fair share of the cash.

“Too often for whatever reason (rural) Dorset has not had its fair share of funding from the LEP for projects which underpin our ambitions for Dorset. We will be seeking an assurance from the LEP that, in future, we will get a fair deal when we bring forward projects as part of our plans to expand and revitalise the Dorset economy…

“Looking back at previous failures to obtain much-needed funding the impression is that all too often the LEP has favoured supporting projects in already established parts, generally urban, rather than ensuring that all areas get their fair share of opportunity, especially in the west, south and north of Dorset,” he said.

He said that a fairer distribution of funding was more important than ever as the council tried to rebuild the economy after Covid with a particular need for better broadband which had prevented many people working from home during the pandemic.

“We need to deal with the skills gap and lack of social mobility in parts of Dorset, particularly the rural areas.

“We must work to give our younger generation the opportunity to stay in Dorset and raise a family if they wish to do so, but this will only be possible if skilled, well-paid jobs are available.”

He said part of the planned strategy, if funding could be achieved, was for a £8.75million project to improve digital networks, £5m of it which had been requested from the LEP.