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Leader ousted in unitary row

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Christchurch BC leader Ray Nottage (Con) has been ousted over his support for the unitary reorganisation of Dorset.

Cllr Nottage and his deputy Claire Bath (Con) lost a vote of confidence in the ruling Conservative group on Monday over the issue.

They had supported Christchurch joining Bournemouth and Poole BCs in a new unitary, with a second council formed to cover East Dorset, North Dorset, West Dorset and Purbeck DCs and Weymouth & Portland BC.

Christchurch though earlier this month rejected the idea, as did East Dorset with which it shares services.

Purbeck opposed the idea on its chair’s casting vote, against the advice of leader Gary Suttle (Con).

A motion passed by Christchurch last night from acting leader David Flagg (Con) objected to pro-reorganisation councils having asked communities secretary Sajid Javid to go ahead and sanction the creation of the two unitaries. He cited “deep concerns about the proposed harmonisation of council tax” and weakening of green belt protection policies under a unitary.

Cllr Flagg said: “We understand it is necessary to explore alternative arrangements which the council can utilise to reduce costs and maintain services while retaining its sovereignty including working with the other two councils who did not support the [reorganisation] submission”.

East Dorset’s previous leader Ian Monks (Con) was ousted in similar circumstances in December 2015 when he supported reorganisation against a majority of councillors.

His successor Spencer Flower (Con) also supported reorganisation but will now write to Mr Javid to say that councillors had concerns about the consultation process and felt joining a unitary could lead to “loss of control over services such as planning”.





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