Public consultation results show clear backing for change to local government structures in Dorset. In the household survey, which is representative of the county’s population, almost three quarters support reducing Dorset’s councils from nine to two, with over two thirds of open questionnaire respondents also agreeing.
Deliberative and qualitative research found that the business community, voluntary sectors, residents and town & parish councils also primarily backed change.
Of the options for the geographical make-up of any new council, there was majority support in both the household survey and open questionnaire for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to be served by one new council, with East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset & Weymouth & Portland areas served by a second new council (65% in the household survey and 53% in the open questionnaire). This was also the strongest-supported option via qualitative research.
Similarly, a detailed study undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCoopers looking at the Government’s five criteria for change cites a compelling case for local government reorganisation in Dorset. It found evidence that proposals to restructure the county’s local government have key strengths in the areas covered by the criteria; that change would improve services, provide stronger leadership, increase efficiency, save money and be sustainable.
View the public consultation report.
Now, in considering any change, each council will want to be sure that any proposal both has public support and also meets the government’s criteria for approval.
This is what the financial assessment, the public consultation and the case for change work is about – providing all councillors in Dorset with a package of robust and independent evidence they can consider when deciding whether or not to support change from nine councils to two, should this be recommended, and if so, what composition of the two new councils would be best for Dorset.
The nine councils in Dorset commissioned the public consultation from Opinion Research Services and the case for change from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, alongside a financial assessment of the potential savings achievable through reorganisation. The financial review found that, change delivers £108m over the six years after the transition, allowing services to be protected in the future.
Councillors now need to consider all the evidence – the financial assessment, the case for change and the results of public consultation – to determine whether they support change. This will be considered separately at each council during January. Following that, and subject to agreement, a request will be made to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, who will make the final decision.
Any new councils would come into being in April 2019.