Six Dorset councils back merger plans

PLANS to reorganise Dorset's local government into two new unitary authorities have been backed by six of the county's nine councils.

Bournemouth, Dorset, North Dorset, Poole, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland voted in favour of the change. East Dorset, Purbeck and Christchurch councils rejected the plan.

A public consultation backed reorganisation and a study by PwC concluded that it would benefit the economy, deliver better services and improve the county's infrastructure, housing and environment.

All nine councils will now meet on 8 February. Those in favour of the proposal will agree a formal proposal asking local government secretary Sajid Javid to begin the process of reorganisation. If the secretary of state agrees to the change and it is approved by parliament during 2017-18, decision-making bodies would be appointed to determine the structure, budget and service delivery models of the new councils. The unitaries, which would be made up of councillors from all existing local authorities, would go live in April 2019, with full elections the following month.

Matt Prosser, chairman of the Dorset Chief Executives Group, said: “We are collectively committed to doing the right thing for our residents and for the whole of 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. All the evidence shows that this proposal will do just that and more, and we will use the mandate given to us by six of the councils wisely to effect positive change.

“We now have a mandate from our councils and we have the backing of the public and other stakeholders. That is clear from the consultation results. Now we have a duty to respond to that mandate and secure a sustainable and even brighter future for Dorset. We are resolved in our commitment to a county that is healthy, prosperous, vibrant and inclusive for generations to come. We now need to determine the next steps in achieving this opportunity of a lifetime.”