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01.04.19

New unitary authorities formally takeover from Dorset’s nine councils

Two new unitary authorities have officially taken control of local government in Dorset following the merging of nine local authorities.

Given the go-ahead by parliament in May last year, the creation of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council and Dorset Council is expected to save £108m over the next six years, with 450 jobs to be cut.

The nine local authorities across the two regions have been abolished in favour of the two unitary authorities, who say the reorganisation will “reduce back office duplication and management overheads” and create a stronger voice when bidding for government funding.

The merger was strongly opposed by Christchurch BC, who held an “emotional” last ever council meeting on Thursday, but will join Bournemouth and Poole councils in the BCP authority after it lost a legal challenge against the plans.

The former Dorset County, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth & Portland, and West Dorset authorities will form the new Dorset Council.

Matt Prosser, chief executive of the new Dorset Council, said: “Our first budget protects and invests in education, social care, waste collection, and tackling homelessness.

“This wouldn't have been possible without the reorganisation of our councils.

“It's been a challenge to disband six councils and create one unitary authority in the short amount of time available, but I'm delighted with our progress and want to thank all colleagues and elected councillors for their hard work and commitment.”

He added that councillors would work to address resident’s concerns over the new regime and worries that local areas will receive “less attention and representation.”

The new authorities will hold their first elections on 2 May, which will see the total number of council seats reduced from 333 to 158.

John Beesley, the deputy chair of the shadow BCP, said: "The creation of this new council was our strategic response to the financial challenges we face."

Speaking at Christchurch BC’s last council meeting, councillors paid tribute to the 700-year-old authority.

Councillor Colin Bungey said: “But today is one tinged with sadness. This ancient borough is one of the oldest in England and the most senior in Dorset, and is about to be made redundant.”

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