Labour claims Dover's Levelling Up funding is 'plugging the holes' after 'decade of mismanagement'

Labour's parliamentary candidate for Dover and Deal says the £45 million awarded to the Port of Dover, to improve traffic flow to the EU as part of the government's Levelling Up Fund, is "plugging the holes" in the county's finances after more than a "decade of mismanagement".

Mike Tapp says he is infuriated: "I welcome the funding and when I saw it I was really excited and then I saw what £45 million of that is going to be spent on.

"What we're looking at is new entry booths at the port and redesigning some of the road infrastructure.

"Now back in 2020 a £33 million bid was put in for new entry points and that was rejected by the Cabinet Office and they should be paying for that sort of infrastructure.

"When it comes to roads that falls to the county council to be covering.

"So unfortunately what we're seeing here is not 'levelling up', we're just seeing money being spent where the government should be spending it anyway."

The £45 million will be spent on extra border control points and a new exit route at the Port of Dover.

It is one of five projects in Kent to be awarded, in total, a £123 million share of the £2.1 billion fund.

The Port of Dover is set to benefit from £45 million of government funding. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Another project in the county includes the Dover Beacon project, which aims to transform a brownfield site in the town centre.

The Leader of Conservative-led Kent County Council, Roger Gough, said the enhancements will not only have a positive impact on Dover and the surrounding area but on Kent and its economy as a whole.

Speaking on Thursday, when industrial action in France affected cross Channel services, Mr Gough said: "The success of the Dover Access Improvements bid is excellent news for Dover itself, for East Kent and for the county, and a real attempt to deal with the disruption and difficulties that we all know only too well when problems arise at the border.

"It is very much concerned with issues in and around the Port of Dover, to try to improve the fluidity of traffic with security checks more logically arranged, a buffer zone so you can get a lot more queuing traffic off the roads, a doubling of the border control posts and a new exit route.

"However, there is a much wider impact on Kent and the Kent economy and the ability of our residents to go about their daily lives without being disrupted by these huge snarl ups we get whenever Operation Brock has to be called in.

"I can’t promise on the back of this that that will never happen again, and no one thing is a silver bullet for this issue, but this can be seen as a major step forward.

"Given the new border arrangements for the European Union, the so-called Entry Exit System or EES, which may well be coming in later this year, it is doubly important that we focus on this issue."

Queues of cars at the Port of Dover in May.

Doug Bannister, CEO, Port of Dover, said: "This is a great day for the port and for Dover.

"I am incredibly grateful to Kent County Council for their invaluable support on this, and to Natalie Elphicke for championing our cause on securing such significant funding to help deliver our important Outbound Controls Project.

"This will be a transformational project, delivering the next evolution of Britain’s busiest ferry terminal with a reconfigured layout and enhanced border control points to help secure traffic flow and capacity for the long term.

"Today is a celebration of many things. It is recognition of the Port’s fundamental economic role in supporting levelling up across the nation.

"It is also a demonstration by the government of its commitment to our future success and that of Dover and Kent more widely.

"As such, I also offer my sincere congratulations to our partners at Dover District Council for their successful funding bid.

"Together, such investment in the people, town and port of Dover marks a bright new chapter for us all."

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, said: "Severe delays at the port have a huge impact on residents and businesses in our community.

"This important investment will help keep Dover clear and port traffic running more smoothly. It will make a huge difference to us locally."