Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid has formally approved the proposal to abolish nine councils in Dorset and replace them with two unitaries next year.
Mr Javid said he had considered representations on the ‘Future Dorset’ plan after announcing he was “minded to” approve the proposal in November and had decided it “will herald a new era for the area”.
In a written ministerial statement issued today he said: “I am satisfied that these new councils are likely to improve local government and service delivery in their areas, generating savings, increasing financial resilience, facilitating a more strategic and holistic approach to planning and housing challenges, and sustaining good local services.”
While Christchurch BC opposed reorganisation, and has since announced it will seek legal advice in relation to today’s announcement, Mr Javid said he was satisfied there is a “good deal” of local support for the proposal and the new councils would cover a “credible geography”.
“In my statement of 7 November I noted that the nine councils were already working together in joint committees on planning possible implementation of the proposal, and that further steps were needed to secure local consent,” he said. “I am clear that further steps have been taken, and that the nine councils are continuing to work constructively together on planning implementation.”
Mr Javid said he will now prepare the necessary secondary legislation, with the intention of establishing the new councils on 1 April 2019.
The first elections are planned for 2 May 2019. Mr Javid said a parliamentary order will be drafted to delay elections due in Weymouth & Portland BC this May by one year.
Mr Javid said last November that once he had made a decision on this issue he would consider locally-led proposals to form a combined authority.
He added: “As a first step I intend now to ask the leaders of the Dorset councils how they would like to proceed with their combined authority proposal in the light of my decision on the proposal.”