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'Absurd' legal bid to halt Dorset reorganisation ahead of MPs' vote

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Christchurch BC has launched a legal challenge to reorganisation in Dorset, despite the government describing it as “absurd”.

The council claims former housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid acted unlawfully when he submitted draft legislation last month paving the way for the area’s nine councils abolished and replaced with two new unitaries.

Votes on the proposal are due to take place in the House of Commons and House of Lords this afternoon.

Christchurch, which previously submitted an alternative proposal for three unitary councils, had called on the government to withdraw the draft legislation, which would establish one of two new unitary councils across Christchurch, Bournemouth BC and Borough of Poole.

Then last week Christchurch issued a ‘letter before action’ ahead of a bid for a judicial review. A government lawyer on behalf of new homes and communities secretary James Brokenshire subsequently described the challenge as “unacceptable” and “an absurd intention to impute Parliament”.

Christchurch responded yesterday by issuing proceedings in the High Court after seeking “further legal advice”.

The full details of the legal challenge have not been revealed. However, a motion approved by Christchurch last month argued “it would be a constitutional outrage” for Parliament to “approve secondary legislation which amends the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 with retrospective effect.”

In a statement, Christchurch leader David Flagg (Con) said the opinion of the council’s legal team had not changed following receipt of the government letter.

He said: “Christchurch BC and the majority of our residents remain opposed to local government reorganisation in Dorset and we firmly believe that the regulations drafted by the secretary of state are beyond his powers.”

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