Dorset Council to increase capital spending after COVID-19 delays

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CAPITAL spending at Dorset Council will swell in the financial year to come – mainly because of delayed projects caused by COVID-19.

Problems with the supply chain and labour shortages as a consequence of the pandemic means the council will push £103.6million it had intended to spend in the current financial year into its capital budget for 2022-23.

About £10million of projects has been taken out of the proposals altogether because of schemes unlikely to get underway or no longer considered a priority.

Dorset councillors heard that the passed-forward amount will now result in the council having a capital budget of £229million to spend up until the end of March 2023, although the authority admits that it may not be able to spend all the money within the financial year.

Council senior finance officer Jim McManus said that it had been increasingly difficult for those in the construction industry to ‘conjure up’ the supplies they needed, usually from abroad, to complete council building projects.

One of those projects is the new children’s centre in Dorchester Road, Weymouth, which the authority said recently had slipped by at least two months, mainly because of supply problems – difficulties which may also yet impact on the cost of the project.

Similar problems of supply and rising costs have also had an effect in neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole where several projects have also had to be scaled back or delayed, including one housing scheme where fewer houses are now being delivered because of rising costs.

Council leader Cllr Spencer Flower said that despite the problems the council had shown agility with its capital projects during the year by going to the market and buying the former St Mary’s private school near Shaftesbury for about £10million, which is currently being converted into a new unit for children with additional needs – a project which has been widely seen as an efficient and cost-effective way of quickly providing some of the additional school places the county needs.

By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins

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