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Dorset unitary dissidents consider raising reorganisation objections

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Dissident Dorset councils are to tell communities secretary Sajid Javid why he should reject a controversial unitary reorganisation bid.

Six councils have approved plans to create two new unitaries covering the areas of Dorset CC and Bournemouth and Poole BCs.

But LGC previously reported how Christchurch BC and East Dorset and Purbeck DCs rejected the idea despite all three leaders supporting it.

Following a meeting of all leaders last Wednesday, the six pro-unitary councils have agreed to submit a formal application for reorganisation to Mr Javid, who has powers to force a reorganisation even if there is not agreement from all councils.

Under the plan, one new council would cover Bournemouth, Poole, and Christchurch with a population of about 390,000 residents. The other new council made up of East Dorset, North Dorset, West Dorset and Purbeck DCs and Weymouth & Portland BC would provide services for about 369,000 residents.

The most determined dissident is Christchurch, whose deputy leader Claire Bath (Con) said she would propose to councillors “we send a robust letter to the secretary of state which states our position and the main reasons why the majority of councillors did not support the option for change”.

Purbeck leader Gary Suttle (Con) told LGC: “I, as a pro-unitary leader - as is every Dorset leader - am not minded to submit an objection although I am under some pressure from the ‘anti’ brigade to do so.

“However, the council made no counter proposal and has no mandate to do anything else at this point.”

He said chief executive Steve McKenzie was “minded to send the secretary of state a copy of the minutes, which I do believe is acceptable, however, these do nothing more than highlight a good debate and some misunderstandings brought up in that debate”.

East Dorset leader Spencer Flower (Con) said he would seek members’ approval to send Mr Javid minutes of the meeting concerned.

“We will of course continue to monitor the situation and in the meantime have a conversation about what other options could be explored,” he added.

Supporters of reorganisation say it would bring savings of £108m in the first six years and point to public backing, as well as support from 75% of Dorset’s councillors, and six out of eight local MPs.

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