DORSET faces losing millions of pounds in funding to maintain the county’s roads, officers have warned.

They have predicted a £9m hole in funding for highways maintenance and the county’s roads could suffer as a result.

A combination of government grants and borrowing has meant that Dorset County Council is currently enjoying a healthy level of funding and officers say they are reducing the number of roads needing attention.

But Dorset County Council’s head of highways, Andrew Martin, told members of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee it would not take long for the impact of a huge reduction in funding to be felt across the road network.

It comes after a harsh winter left a bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair highways. Mr Martin said: “We are facing a significant reduction in funding next year.

“If we do not maintain these funding levels we have currently we will see a significant deterioration over a short period of time.”

A report that went before councillors stated that, just to maintain the current state of the county’s roads would cost an estimated £15.3million a year over the next 10 years and to improve it to an ‘acceptable condition’ would require investment of £23.3million per year.

Mr Martin said that at the current levels of funding the highways team had managed to reduce the percentage of minor roads in the county needing improvements from 10 per cent to seven per cent and he envisaged further improvements during the current financial year as funding remained in place.

However, it will be a different picture next year if the expected drop in funding materialises.

Director for environment, Mike Harries, said that there was no way of telling if further government funding would come and said that if the cuts do come then the highways department would do all it can to make sure the budget it is left with goes as far as possible.

Mr Harries said: “We are in a time of limited resources.

“We will do what we can with the resources available and I think the team has been very resourceful and efficient about funding the best ways of doing things.”

As reported in the Echo, 1,800 potholes were reported in just three weeks with repairs estimated at £135,000.

Derek Hine, a Preston resident who has spoken out in the past about the condition of the roads, said: “We can’t expect any local council to have a reduction and then have a winter like we had last year. I would definitely be very concerned.

“Funds aren’t being allocated very well either as the money for the roads should come out of car taxes, which is what things like this were originally designed for, for road repairs.”

Cllr Christine James, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s spokesman for transport and infrastructure, said: “The reduction will have an enormous impact as it’s a big issue here.

“It has an impact on business and tourism too because it’s costing entrepreneurs money to keep repairing their cars while driving on these roads, and tourists could have a bad experience when visiting.

“What you will also get is a lot more claims to the county council for vehicle damage and personal injury.”