Weymouth and Portland have been overlooked by the government for a share of a £1 billion fund to support 'left behind towns'.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has promised £20 million to 55 towns across the UK to help with regenerating high streets, tackling anti-social behaviour and improving local transport.

Campaigners believe the borough would have been a prime candidate for this funding because of its multiple problems associated with deprivation, poor social mobility and shrinking job opportunities.

In fact, a report last year called for urgent action to support the 'forgotten towns' of Weymouth and Portland which was described as 'Dorset's shame'.

But the borough was not included on the list of areas to benefit from the regeneration fund.

Academic and social campaigner, Philip Marfleet, who was an author of the 'forgotten towns' report, has been left dismayed at the decision that the area has not been included.

He said: “That’s shocking. In terms of investment, apart from the harbour there has been nothing.

“There’s only been one significant investment to infrastructure in the last 30 years and that has been the Weymouth Relief Road.

“The area is strikingly deprived and high on the Dorset list of deprived areas and within the top 10% in the UK."

READ: Weymouth & Portland among 10% most deprived areas in UK

Mr Marfleet said that the 2022 report found that child poverty was at 40 per cent in some areas of Weymouth, and that many young and working aged people want to leave, whilst stating that 'the locally elected officials and MPs have been ineffective on almost every front’.

He continued: “The arrival of the (asylum seeker) barge has highlighted problems of deprived areas, and it demonstrates how difficult things are for us down here.

“People feel resentful and distressed about the problems here – it’s quite extraordinary.”

Town councillor Matt Bell was also ‘furious’ that Weymouth was left off the list, and believes the town should have received some of the funding.

He said: “Weymouth would easily meet the criteria which includes measures such as areas of deprivation, health needs and levels of pay and skills.

"The fund is aimed at reviving the high streets of towns just like ours; sadly Weymouth has once again been overlooked.

"Large sums of money are available, and Weymouth is missing out. Things need to change, and Weymouth clearly need someone with a strong voice to fight its corner.”

The initiative forms part of the government's long term plan for towns that will give local communities across the UK control over their future.

The news came as a surprise to South Dorset MP Richard Drax, who said he was not aware of the funding available.

He said: “Of course, we are disappointed.

"After speaking to Dorset Council, neither they nor I know knew about it. We are surprised – it came out of the blue, really.

“Having said that, we are grateful for the £20 million we have already received. We haven’t got nothing.

“Of course, I will continue to advocate for Weymouth and Portland. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t.”  

In January it was announced that Weymouth had been awarded £19.5 million after a successful bid to the government’s Levelling Up Fund which will help to regenerate the harbourside.

However, this is still not seen as enough and Mr Marfleet was left ‘astounded’ that local elected officials were unaware of the latest funding.

He added: “I cannot believe Mr Drax or leaders of the (Dorset) council were not aware of this.

"For years local MPs and councils have been in denial – they don’t want to know – they don’t want to deal with marginalised communities.”