Dorset merger given final green light despite challenges

Legislation has now passed in both Houses of Parliament ensuring that Dorset residents will be served by two brand new unitary councils from April 2019 – Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council, and Dorset Council.

As such, the county’s nine current councils, Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, East Dorset, Purbeck, North Dorset, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland, will cease to exist on 31 March 2019. Two Joint Committees, set up to make the local decisions needed to ensure the Parliamentary process could complete, will now disband and will be replaced by two Shadow Authorities – one for each new council area.

The Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Shadow Authority is made up of 125 seats, filled by all existing 120 councillors from the preceding authorities including five councillors who are both Borough and County Councillors for Christchurch. For the Dorset Council, the Shadow Authority comprises 206 seats, occupied by 174 existing councillors. At a meeting early next year, the Shadow Authorities will be responsible for setting the first budget of each new unitary council.

A joint statement from the leaders of the eight councils said: “This is an historic day for local government in our county, and we are exceptionally proud to have reached this significant milestone. Both new councils will serve around 400,000 residents, putting them within the twenty largest local authorities in the country. It is the immense opportunity that this strength of position gives us at a national level that is the most exciting benefit of all. These two new councils will have a stronger, co-ordinated voice when bidding for government funding and investment for things like road improvements, housing, schools and economic regeneration; the things that benefit an area for all those living within it.”