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Lawyer quashes borough's hopes of challenge to new unitary

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Christchurch BC councillors opposed to local government reorganisation in Dorset have been warned that they have no grounds for a legal challenge.

An extraordinary council meeting next week will be told that advice from Nathalie Lieven QC, of Blackstone Chambers, is that there is “absolutely no arguable error of law, and thus any arguable cause of action” against last month’s decision by housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid to approve the plans for reorganisation.

Ms Lieven poured cold water on potential challenges suggested by Christchurch under either equalities legislation, procedural errors in the consultation or on grounds of irrationality.

Christchurch had organised its own poll in its area which found a majority of respondents were against the proposal that it should join Bournemouth BC and Borough of Poole in a new unitary.

Mr Javid said in a letter to leader David Flagg (Con): “I am satisfied that not only the majority of the public across Dorset support the proposal, but that the [Christchurch] poll, involving only some 6% of the area’s population, does not undermine my judgment that the local support criterion is met.”

In a report to councillors, Cllr Flagg said Christchurch could either accept the situation and support the creation of the new council or continue to seek ways to resist this.

Based on Ms Lieven’s advice, “incurring further and potentially significant costs on a legal challenge would therefore seem imprudent at best, irrational at worst”, Cllr Flagg said. “Members should determine whether spending any further money on continued resistance to the changes proposed is in the best interests of taxpayers.”

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


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