Christchurch Rejects Councils Merger Plan

3 January 2018, 08:39

Christchurch Council's formally voted to reject a planned merger with Bournemouth and Poole.

It says it wants to maintain its independence, and has set aside £15,000 for legal advice on staying out of a supercouncil.

The second council would be formed from East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth & Portland and West Dorset.

Councillors have agreed their representation setting out an alternative to the Future Dorset proposal. At its Extraordinary Full Council meeting on 2 January members agreed by a majority of 13 for with six abstentions.

Christchurch Borough Council will now write to the Secretary of State setting out a proposal that the Boroughs of Bournemouth and Poole become a single unitary authority and that the rest of Dorset remains as a two-tier structure. The council is also requesting additional time to fully work up its proposal.

The representation states that the council believes that rather than implementing two new large and remote unitary councils there is greater strength in developing a mixed approach to the way services are delivered. Christchurch Borough Council estimates that savings of £29.9m per annum, the same as those put forward in the Future Dorset model, could be achieved by implementing the cost savings put forward within their representation.

Cllr David Flagg, Leader of the Council, Christchurch Borough Council, said: 

"Having carried out the local poll it was clear that residents of Christchurch do not want to be part of a new authority with Bournemouth and Poole.

"Christchurch Borough Council wishes to retain our sovereignty and we believe that retaining the existing two-tier structure in Dorset presents a credible alternative that the Secretary of State will take time to consider. With Bournemouth and Poole already sharing a number of Corporate Services, the suggestion of them becoming a single unitary authority would take this one step further and our representation offers estimated savings at the same level as those of the Future Dorset model."

The council also approved an initial budget of £15,000 to take legal advice and if necessary initiate legal proceedings to protect the interests of Christchurch Borough Council and its residents.

Members also agreed that should the Secretary of State announce a final decision that he will approve the Future Dorset submission the council will oppose the passage of the Structural Change Order through all appropriate means and strongly support its MP in any action designed to prevent the frustration of the democratically-expressed wishes of the people of Christchurch.

Local Government Secretary Savid Javid has said he's 'minded to' support the idea, which aims to save millions of pounds. Dorset's eight other councils have agreed to the proposals.