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Cabinet to consider future local government options

A report outlining options for the future structure of local government in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset will be considered by Cabinet members in Poole on Tuesday 8 December 2015.
In September it was announced that the Leaders of Poole, Bournemouth, Christchurch and East Dorset Councils wish to jointly explore proposals for a single unitary council to cover the areas they serve. Subsequently, the Leaders of all nine councils in Bournemouth, Poole and the rest of Dorset agreed to work together to seek agreement on the future shape of local government across the whole county.
The report to Cabinet outlines three options for further exploration:
  • A single pan-Dorset unitary council providing local services for the whole Dorset county area.
  • A new unitary council for South East Dorset providing local services for Bournemouth, Christchurch and East Dorset, and Poole; with a separate arrangement for the rest of Dorset.
  • A ‘no change’ option retaining the existing local government structure of all nine councils in Dorset
The report also sets out two main reasons for considering a change to the local government structure in Dorset:
  • Sustaining public services with significantly reduced funding; and
  • Realising the potential for economic prosperity in the area.
By 2020, it is likely that a combined total of £82 million of government funding will be removed from the nine councils in Dorset, making the current model of local government across the county increasingly difficult to sustain.
Cabinet members will be asked to recommend to Council that it authorises the development of a case for changing the existing local government structure and to commission work through the Local Government Association to examine the financial implications of the three options on behalf of all nine councils in Dorset. 
Cllr Janet Walton, Leader of the Council, Borough of Poole, said: “Local authorities are being encouraged to come forward with innovative proposals to meet the financial challenge of continued public sector austerity and take advantage of the opportunities for economic growth arising from the Government’s devolution agenda.
“The financial pressures faced by all councils means we must consider ambitious and possibly radical solutions if we are to continue to provide the services our residents expect and deserve.
“The Leaders of all nine councils in Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole are committed to working together to explore the options. Should all our respective councils agree to take this work forward then we would look to develop a case for change which best serves the long-term interests of residents and businesses, and preserves the sense ofidentity and heritage of our local communities that we value so much.”
If recommended by Cabinet members, the report will be further considered at a meeting of the Council on Tuesday 15 December.   
Should all nine councils agree to further examine the options, more detailed work to develop a business case, including arrangements for consulting the public, will start in early 2016.