All nine councils in Dorset have now considered a report and accompanying detailed package of evidence setting out a proposal to replace the county’s nine councils with two new unitary authorities.
Six councils (Bournemouth, Dorset County, North Dorset, Poole, West Dorset, and Weymouth & Portland) have supported the public mood and backed a change to local government structures in Dorset. The proposal is to create two new unitary councils based on the following existing local authority areas:
Unitary A: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (including delivering the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in Christchurch).
Unitary B: East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland (including the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area).
Matt Prosser, Chairman of the Dorset Chief Executives Group, said: “We are passionate about the Dorset of the future. We are collectively committed to doing the right thing for our residents and for the whole of the county – to protect services, to raise Dorset’s profile, to grow the economy, and to generate prosperity and an enhanced lifestyle for all those who live here. All the evidence shows that this proposal will do just that and more, and we are proud of our respective Councils for making the right decision and backing change.
“We now have a mandate from our councils and we have the backing of the public and other stakeholders. That is clear from the consultation results. Now, we have a duty to respond to that mandate and secure a sustainable and even brighter future for Dorset. We are resolved in our commitment to a county that is healthy, prosperous, vibrant and inclusive for generations to come. We now need to determine the next steps in achieving this opportunity of a lifetime.”
Dorset's Council Leaders will meet on 8th February. At this meeting, those councils supporting change will agree the formal proposal to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, asking him to use the powers available and replace Dorset’s nine councils with two new unitary councils.
If the Secretary of State agrees and the change is approved by Parliament during 2017/18, decision-making bodies would be appointed to determine the structure, budget and service delivery models of each new Council. These would be made up of councillors from all existing local authorities. The new councils would 'go live' in April 2019, with full elections in May 2019.
Public consultation results show clear backing for change to local government structures in Dorset in both the representative household survey and the open residents questionnaire, with the proposed boundaries also being the most favoured. Deliberative and qualitative research found that the business community, voluntary sectors, residents' groups and town and parish councils also primarily mirrored these results.
A detailed study undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCoopers cites a compelling case for local government reorganisation in Dorset. It found evidence that replacing nine councils with two would benefit the economy, improve services, be good for people’s health and wellbeing, help education and skills in Dorset and improve the county’s infrastructure, housing and environment.