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Borough set to renew challenge to Dorset reorganisation

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Christchurch BC councillors opposed to reorganisation in Dorset claim housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid acted unlawfully by submitting draft legislation to create two unitary councils in the county.

A motion to be considered at a meeting of full council on Tuesday argues the draft secondary legislation “unjustly” denies Christchurch an opportunity to make representations against the proposal and submit an alternative option.

It calls on the government to withdraw the legislation, which would establish one of two new unitary councils across Christchurch, Bournemouth BC and Borough of Poole, and calls on MPs and peers to vote it down.

The motion, put forward by backbencher David Jones (Con), added: “It would be a constitutional outrage for the UK Parliament to approve secondary legislation which amends the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 with retrospective effect.”

At an extraordinary council meeting held last month following Mr Javid’s approval of the ‘Future Dorset’ proposal, councillors were provided with advice from Nathalie Lieven QC, of Blackstone Chambers. At the time she said there was “absolutely no arguable error of law, and thus any arguable cause of action” against the decision.

However, an agenda item also to be considered at next week’s meeting will invite councillors to consider “a more recent point of law… to which counsel’s further opinion has been sought”.

The item states “at the time of writing counsel’s further has not been received” and a verbal update will be provided at the meeting.

Speaking to the Bournemouth Echo, Christchurch MP Christopher Chope (Con) said the challenge was “not just a procedural technicality” and Mr Javid’s decision would abolish the council “against its will and that of its residents.”

The reorganisation of nine councils in Dorset will see a second unitary created covering the remainder of the existing county.

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