Dorset tourist services in doubt amid funding cuts

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image copyrightLDRS
image captionDorchester's Tourist Information Centre is currently based in the town's library

The future of Dorset Council's three remaining tourist information centres is in doubt after the authority said it would withdraw funding next month.

The council wants the services in Dorchester, Sherborne and Wareham to be taken over by the town councils and volunteers but nothing has been agreed.

Critics fear the towns will be left with no service when lockdown lifts and the tourist season starts.

The authority said talks with town councils were ongoing.

The three centres cost the authority about £200,000 a year to run and employ 12 part-time staff, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Council papers showed more than 93,000 people visited one of the three centres in person during 2019/20.

Dorchester and Sherborne town councils have expressed a willingness to take over the service, although it may be in a different form.

'Expert staff'

Wareham's town council said it did not want to run a service but would be happy to assist.

Dorset Council said it would make a limited amount of transitional funding available for whoever takes on the service.

But at a Dorset Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Dorchester resident John Calvert asked: "If tourism is so important for Dorset, and in particular for Dorchester, why is Dorset Council stopping the funding and releasing the expert staff before agreeing a replacement service?

"Some transitional funding is no substitute for proper planning."

Customer and community services councillor Jill Haynes said the council's financial situation had left it with little alternative than to cut non-statutory services.

She added that talks with ward councillors, town councils and volunteer groups would resume this week.

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