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Districts cast doubt over two-unitary plan

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A plan to reorganise the two-tier structure in Dorset has been thrown into doubt after a third of the districts involved rejected the proposals.

The full councils of Christchurch BC, East Dorset and Purbeck DCs have voted against plans to form two unitaries out of the nine local authorities across Dorset.

A meeting of all of the leaders will now take place on 8 February to determine the next steps but the six councils supporting the proposals – Bournemouth BC, Dorset CC, North Dorset DC, Borough of Poole, West Dorset DC, and Weymouth & Portland BC – are still expected to submit their application to communities secretary Sajid Javid.

Matt Prosser, chair of the Dorset chief executives group and chief executive North Dorset, West Dorset, and Weymouth & Portland, said: “We are passionate about the Dorset of the future. 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 are proud of our respective councils for making the right decision and backing change.”

The proposal is for one unitary to be formed by combining unitaries Bournemouth and Poole with district Christchurch, and would include delivering the services currently provided by Dorset CC in Christchurch. 

The second unitary would be made up of five districts – East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland – and would include the services currently provided by Dorset CC in this area.

A unitary for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole would serve a population of about 390,000 residents, while a unitary for East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, and Weymouth and Portland would provide services for about 369,000 residents.

LGC reported in December how residents had backed the proposals.

Mr Prosser said: “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.”

If Mr Javid agrees to the proposed changes and they are approved by parliament during 2017-18, decision-making bodies would be appointed to determine the structure, budget, and service delivery models of each new council. These would be made up of councillors from all existing local authorities.

The new councils would ‘go live’ in April 2019, with full elections in May 2019.


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