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Dorset merger greenlit by Parliament despite Christchurch legal battle in High Court

Legislation has now formally been passed for Dorset to be served by two brand-new unitary councils – despite an ongoing legal challenge against this proposal.

From 21 April 2019 the county’s nine councils will cease to exist and will be replaced by the formation of Christchurch and Poole Council and Dorset Council.

Now that Parliament has approved the move, the final Order will be made, and the two joint committees that were formed to ensure completion of the parliamentary process will disband and be replaced by two shadow authorities – one for each new council area.

The first meeting of the shadow authorities must take place within 14 days of the Order being made, and will see each shadow authority appoint statutory officers on an interim basis.

Early next year, they will be responsible for setting the first budget of each new unitary council.

The leaders of the eight councils that consented to the reform – not including Christchurch, which is staunchly against the plans and has resorted to legal action – welcomed the news.

Councillors from each of the eight councils issued a joint statement to hail what they called a “historic day for local government.”

They said: “People recognised that Dorset is made up of a distinct and established conurbation and a defined county area, each with its own differing needs and priorities. 

“They, like us, saw the logic of streamlined local government, of having councils with less overheads that are better able to protect local services in the future and that can spend a greater proportion of available funds on frontline provision like road repairs, children’s services, adult social care, waste & recycling, parks, and libraries.”

The councillors added that that the new authorities will have a stronger, coordinated voice when bidding for government funding and investment for things like road improvements and housing.

The nine preceding councils will continue to deliver all services between now and April 2019.

Earlier this week Christchurch Borough Council, which has consistently opposed the merger, commenced High Court proceedings to halt it. But despite its determination, central government has already branded the challenge as “an absurd intention to impute to parliament.” 

Top image: Fonrimso


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