FUNDING for Tourist Information Centres(TICs) will be withdrawn by Dorset Council under proposals being considered later this month.

The council currently pays out around £600,000 and employs 12 staff to run the centres in Wareham, Sherborne and Dorchester. They received 93,000 visitors during 2019/20.

But now it says it cannot afford to run the centres and will look at alternative ways of providing them in the future.

Five other TICs in the Dorset Council are already run by other organisations such as town and parish councils. They are in Blandford, Swanage, Wimborne, Shaftesbury and Bridport.

Some areas, including Weymouth no longer have TICs at all.

In a report being taken to the Place and Resources Overview Committee on Thursday February 25, members will hear how the council plans to continue to support the popular Visit Dorset website, work with local organisations to find solutions and consider one-off funding to reduce the impact of potential closures on local people.

A recent consultation showed that there is a strong level of support for TICs and the service offered both to residents and visitors.

Of almost 1,000 respondents, 85 per cent were from Dorset residents and 11 per cent completed by visitors to Dorset. The top three purposes for using a TIC are to find out information about the local area, buy tickets for a local event or festival and/or buy retail goods.

The proposal is to continue to work with the three town councils to agree what alternative arrangements can be put in place.

Cllr Jill Haynes, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Customer and Community Services, said: “It’s always a difficult decision to reduce services we have historically provided, especially in the current climate and when jobs are potentially put at risk.

“However, our financial situation leaves us little choice but to review the provision of all services we’re not legally required to deliver.

“We cannot afford to fund tourism support activity at a local level across communities in Dorset. The council’s role is to promote Dorset as a destination, so we will continue to develop the Visit Dorset brand to support the visitor economy and promote sustainable tourism as part of our Economic Growth Strategy.

“The consultation has demonstrated that TIC services are still considered to be important by local people, visitors and businesses. It’s important that Dorset Council investigates all potential options for how these services could be provided in the future.”