Dorset residents back local government reorganisation

DORSET residents have backed a reorganisation of the county's local government that could see the number of councils cut from nine to two.

A household survey conducted as part of a public consultation showed almost three-quarters backed the changes. Two-thirds also supported a shake-up in an open questionnaire and separate research showed backing from the business community, voluntary sectors, residents and towns and parish councils.

Of the options for the geographical make-up of any new councils, the majority in both the household survey and open questionnaire supported a single authority serving Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, with another serving East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by the county's nine councils, looking at the Government's five criteria for change found a "compelling case for local government reorganisation in Dorset".

Separately, a financial assessment put the potential savings from reorganisation at £108m in the six years after transition.

Each individual council will consider the evidence from the public consultation in January.

In a joint statement, they said: "We are passionate about the Dorset of the future. We are collectively committed to doing the right thing for our residents and for the county - to protect services, to raise Dorset's profile, to grow the economy and to generate prosperity and an enhanced lifestyle for all those who live here.

"No decisions have been made about whether to proceed with change or what that change would look like. Only after detailed review of the evidence will a recommendation regarding the future of local government in Dorset be put to all councils for them to consider in January 2017.

"Our ambitions are clear: to ensure Dorset has excellent public services. To deliver an influential profile that means access to funds for the benefit of all. To make Dorset a place of aspiration, competing on an international stage.  A county that is healthy, prosperous, vibrant and inclusive for future generations to come.  This is our commitment and ambition for our county."