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Masthead Local Govt - Governance and Risk

Council urges Javid not to adopt Future Dorset plan, agrees budget for legal advice

Councillors at Christchurch Borough Council have agreed to write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to set out their vision of an alternative to the proposed Future Dorset shake-up.

The council also approved an initial budget of £15,000 to take legal advice “and if necessary initiate legal proceedings to protect the interests of Christchurch Borough Council and its residents”.

In November last year the minister said he was “minded to” back the Future Dorset plans, which involve the replacement of the nine local authorities in the council with two unitaries.

Under this model, one 'urban' unitary would be created through the merger of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. The other 'rural' unitary would be established from East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland. The county council would cease to exist.

At Christchurch’s Extraordinary Full Council meeting on 2 January members agreed on their approach by a majority of 13 for with six abstentions.

They will propose that Bournemouth and Poole become a single unitary authority and that the rest of Dorset remains as a two-tier structure.

Christchurch will request additional time to fully work up its proposal.

The council will tell Javid that it believes that “rather than implementing two new large and remote unitary councils there is greater strength in developing a mixed approach to the way services are delivered”.

It argues that savings of £29.9m per annum, the same as those put forward in the Future Dorset model, could be achieved by implementing the cost savings put forward within their representation.

Cllr David Flagg, Leader of the Council, Christchurch Borough Council, said: “Having carried out the local poll it was clear that residents of Christchurch do not want to be part of a new authority with Bournemouth and Poole.

“Christchurch Borough Council wishes to retain our sovereignty and we believe that retaining the existing two-tier structure in Dorset presents a credible alternative that the Secretary of State will take time to consider. With Bournemouth and Poole already sharing a number of Corporate Services, the suggestion of them becoming a single unitary authority would take this one step further and our representation offers estimated savings at the same level as those of the Future Dorset model.”

Members at Christchurch also agreed that should the Secretary of State announce a final decision that he will approve the Future Dorset submission the council will oppose the passage of the Structural Change Order “through all appropriate means and strongly support its MP in any action designed to prevent the frustration of the democratically-expressed wishes of the people of Christchurch”.


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