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New Dorset leader backs reorganisation after May blocks bid

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Dorset CC’s new leader has confirmed her backing for a proposal to create two new unitary councils spanning the county, amid indications that the reorganisation bid has been held up by Downing Street.

election 2017 1

election 2017 1

The Conservatives retained control of the county council in May’s local election but leader Robert Gould was ousted by a Liberal Democrat candidate.

Rebecca Knox (Con) was elected leader at a full council meeting last month and has subsequently co-signed a statement with five other council leaders reaffirming Dorset’s backing for the two unitary proposal submitted to the Department for Communities & Local Government last year.

Cllr Knox also now appears with the leaders of Bournemouth BC, Borough of Poole, West Dorset and North Dorset DCs and Weymouth & Portland BC on a full proposal document published on the Future Dorset website.

Christchurch BC and East Dorset and Purbeck DCs have opposed reorganisation.

LGC has been told by two senior local government sources that although the DCLG has recommended the plans be approved, prime minister Theresa May has so far refused to allow them to go ahead. This comes after a local MP, believed to be Christopher Chope (Con), who is standing for re-election in Christchurch, raised objections.

However, there is currently no indication a Conservative government would reject the reorganisation plan if re-elected.

Matt Prosser, chair of the Dorset chief executives group and chief executive of North Dorset, West Dorset, and Weymouth & Portland, said he was not party to any discussion about approval for the proposal being blocked.

He told LGC that following the election councils backing reorganisation would “work with the incoming government to understand if local government reorganisation in Dorset is a priority for them”.

Mr Prosser added: “We know we have the support of residents all across the county and of the business community too, and very much hope that whoever is secretary of state after the election shares our view.”

According to the Future Dorset proposal document, 73% of respondents to a household survey of county residents registered their support for two councils in the county instead of nine.

Cllr Knox, the DCLG and Mr Chope have been approached for comment.

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