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18.12.18

Christchurch council leader deselected ahead of Dorset merger he fought to oppose

The leader of Christchurch Borough Council has been axed by his own party and deselected by the council after leading a legal battle against a new Dorset council merger with Bournemouth and Poole.

David Flagg has been deselected by the constituency’s approval committee after a secret ballot.

He told the Echo: “After serving as a local councillor for 20 years in Burton, representing the town as mayor and being leader, it seems I am no longer good enough. It’s clear my face doesn’t fit.

“Someone else used the phrase political cleansing in the context of a selection process in Poole and I think there is something of that here.”

Flagg said he detected the hand of Bournemouth’s Conservative leadership in his exit and added that he thinks “the people of Christchurch should worry about the future of the borough in the new unitary council.”

Under Flagg, Christchurch council fought a political and legal battle against the merger deal. Flagg worked closely with the local MP Sir Chris Chope on the issue.

They managed to launch a judicial review against the merger earlier in the year, but lost its battle in the High Court. The council then agreed not to take its legal fight to the Court of Appeal with Flagg apologising for the authority’s unsuccessful battle.

The merger will see Dorset’s nine councils scrapped and two new unitary authorities created, saving the county an estimated £108m over six years.

The other eight councils backed the plan, with Christchurch solely opposing the merger as it argued that its residents were not in favour.

The approval committee, which requires all Conservative candidates to be ratified by before going forward for selection by local branches, met eight weeks ago – but councillors have only now been advised of the outcome.

Cllr Ray Bryan stressed that the deselection process was not a matter of track record but how candidates performed on the day.

He commented: “This is a new council and it was not a matter of anyone being deselected. We have to reduce the number of councillors, so there will be casualties. We are losing some good people.

“This is not a matter of political cleansing. I would not take part in anything like that.”

The deputy leader of Christchurch council, Trish Jamieson, has been approved to stand.

Image credit - Chris Ison

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