Merger – What Next?

This is the schedule for the merger, published in the Spring 2018 issue of the Christchurch Courier. The background to the decision is shown below the image.

FOR THE LATEST NEWS, CLICK HERE

Christchurch Merger Plan

Plan for the Merger – Christchurch Courier, Spring 2018


HOW IT HAPPENED – FROM JULY 2017 TO THE DECISION
SCROLL DOWN – REVERSE ORDER – LATEST AT THE TOP

THE DECISION HAS BEEN MADE

Today (26 February) Sajid Javid approved the creation of a unitary authority of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. This is his statement:

On 7 November I told the House that I was minded to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, the locally-led proposal I had received for improving local government in Dorset, and I invited representations before I took my final decision.

Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, that locally-led proposal to replace the existing nine councils across Dorset – two small unitary councils of Bournemouth and Poole and the two tier structure of Dorset County Council and the district councils of Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, and Weymouth & Portland by two new councils.

These new councils are a single unitary council for the areas of Bournemouth, Poole, and that part of the county of Dorset currently comprising the Borough of Christchurch, and a single unitary council for the rest of the current county area.

I am satisfied that these new councils are likely to improve local government and service delivery in their areas, generating savings, increasing financial resilience, facilitating a more strategic and holistic approach to planning and housing challenges, and sustaining good local services. I am also satisfied that across Dorset as a whole there is a good deal of local support for these new councils, and that the area of each council is a credible geography.

In my statement of 7 November I noted that the nine councils were already working together in joint committees on planning possible implementation of the proposal, and that further steps were needed to secure local consent. I am clear that further steps have been taken, and that the nine councils are continuing to work constructively together on planning implementation.

I now intend to prepare and lay before Parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decision. My intention is that if Parliament approves this legislation the new councils will be established on 1 April 2019 with the first elections to the councils held on 2 May 2019. I also now intend to make and lay before Parliament an Order to delay for one year, as requested by the Borough Council, the May 2018 local elections in Weymouth & Portland so as to avoid members being elected for only one year if Parliament approves the legislation establishing the new councils.

Finally, in my 7 November statement I said that once I had made my final decision on the Dorset proposal, I would decide whether to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, Dorset councils’ proposal for a combined authority. As a first step I intend now to ask the leaders of the Dorset councils how they would like to proceed with their combined authority proposal in the light of my decision on the proposal.


15 August

Now that the Unitary is going ahead, read The Echo for more information.


14 August

Echo articleNo appeal to the judicial review


11 August 

The Echo discusses what may happen to Christchurch’s assets in the new Authority.


10 August

Interesting information about the merger in The Echo


9 August

This morning the merger proposal was on BBC TV news, South Today. Presented by Anjana Gadgil, here is a transcription of the report:

‘Christchurch Borough Council has applied for permission to appeal after failing at an attempt in the High Court to stop a merger of councils in Dorset. It’s opposed to plans to replace the County’s nine councils with two authorities. Their argument that the government has acted beyond its powers was rejected on Tuesday. The government had previously called the bid to halt the merger as absurd and without merit.’

See also an item in today’s Echo.


8 August

Yet more about the merger in The Echo


7 August

The merger appeal has been refused. Read about it in The Echo


3 July

Cost or benefit and to whom? Echo report about the merger.


30 July, morning

It’s HIGH COURT day – Judicial Review. Details in The Echo

__________

30 July, afternoon

Echo report on the proceedings. The Judge has said that he will be as quick as possible, but it may stiill take around two weeks to make the decision.


23 July

Proposal reported in The Echo for Ferndown to join the new constituency!


19 July – Article in the Christchurch Times today

Leader’s Disappointment

The Leader of Christchurch Borough Council has spoken of his ‘disappointment’ that some members failed to support the authority’s stance on Local Government Reorganisation.

Councillor David Flagg, Leader of the Council, said colleagues who did not walk out from the first meeting of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole shadow authority last month went against his advice.

While 13 councillors left the meeting, the pro-merger Christchurch councillors stayed.

Former Leader, Cllr Ray Nottage, one of the original architects of LGR, was elected chairman of the shadow authority, and several of his colleagues also took up roles.

Cllr Flagg said at Full Council that the agreed policy of the council is to oppose the merger. At Full Council Cllr Flagg said. ”I would remind members despite our strongest protests, our participation in the joint committee was used by Councillor [John] Beesley in his letter of support to the Secretary of State for the Future Dorset proposal and by Sajid Javid in his reasons for approving it, both claiming by our participation we were somehow supporting the proposals, which is clearly not the case.”

The High Court challenge to LGI is to be heard at the end of the month.


30 June

Not about the merger, but the proposals for the Parish Councils, which could be important to the issue. See the Christchurch Council page, or read the main document here.


28 June

Read The Echo to see the very high cost of the Judicial Review


22 June

Progress – Judicial Review to go to the High Court


14 June

Full of sound and fury, perhaps signifying something? Echo report.


13 June

More merger issues in The Echo


12 June

Shadow Dorset Council inclusivity issues. Read The Echo.


8 June

In The Echo – Reaction to Cllr Nottag’e appointment.


6 June

Dramatic news – Cllr Nottage in!


6 June

The Echo – More about the merger


5 June

Surprise surprise! In The Echo – Cllr Nottage in the news!


26 May

‘Now legislation has been approved by Parliament the final order will be made, two shadow authorities – one for each new council area – will be formed with the first meetings for both taking place within the next two weeks.’ Read more about it in The Echo


25 May

Echo report on yesterday’s Parliamentary vote


24 May

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow … Yet more about the Judicial Review.
Another Echo article


23 May

Parliamentary vote this afternoon. Echo article


22 May

JUDICIAL REVIEW! –  important news in The Echo

Earlier item – What happens to the boundaries after the merger. Echo article


19 May

Echo article about the response – or not – to the Government line on the merge appeal.


18 May

It might be all over. Echo merger item


17 May

Detailed Government response to the Judicial Review. Echo article.


16 May

Judicial review response, and the debate (3 hours – very significant from 5.30pm onwards) 


8 May

More in The Echo about the merger


7 May

It’s happening – legal action! Echo article


30 April

Excellent Echo item by Chris Chope about Christchurch’s view of Bournemouth. Great comment below the article, too: Many residents in Bournemouth feel the same way and it’s our council.


28 April

Transcript of Sir Christopher Chope’s Adjournment Debate speech about LGR. PDF, around 80K, opens in a new window.


26 April

Merger or not? Echo article


16 April

 Potential progress with the merger appeal? Echo article


15 April

Interesting new proposal for the merger. Echo article


8 July

New Boundaries and Councillor Numbers
From The Boundary Commission:

‘In May 2018, the government decided to create a new local authority called Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. The council will replace the existing authorities of Bournemouth Borough Council, Christchurch Borough Council and Poole Borough Council.

The Commission is now carrying out an electoral review of the new council to decide the number of councillors that should be elected to the authority as well as the names and boundaries of council wards.

We have an open mind about further suggestions from local people to change and improve these recommendations. We will consider all the submissions we receive whoever they are from and whether your evidence applies to the whole of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole or just a part of the area.

Below, you can see our proposals for new ward boundaries (in red) and search across the whole of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, even down to street level. You can also click on any ward to find out how many voters are included in it and how many councillors we propose should represent it.

You can submit comments to us or upload a document by clicking on the ‘Have your say’ link at the top of the page. You can also draw your own boundaries and annotate the map by clicking on the button.

There is plenty of information to help you make a submission in the ‘Useful links’ section at the bottom right of the page.

This stage of the consultation closes on 27 August 2018.’

Click the link to their site here


Judicial Review?

Article in the Christchurch Times, 12 April

Dr Alistair Somerville FordA review has been launched challenging plans to merge Christchurch council with Bournemouth and Poole.

There has been talk of some form of legal challenge being prepared for several months, dating back before Community Secretary Sajid Javid formally approved the Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) plan in February.

Now Christchurch Borough resident Alistair Somerville Ford has personally funded the judicial review backed by constituency MP Sir Christopher Chope, targeting the public consultation which preceded the decision.

Dr Somerville Ford told the Christchurch Times his costs could reach as high as £200,000 but it would be worth trying ‘to protect an ancient borough.’

He said the papers have been filed, although on Tuesday a spokesman for the councils behind LGR said they were not yet aware of the review.

Dr Somerville Ford said: ‘From its inception the process has been characterised by secrecy, evasion and deceit on the part of those seeking the reorganisation.’

He said the review would seek to challenge the claim that the 2016 consultation, organised by polling firm Opinion Research Services, showed overwhelming support for the unitary plan – on which basis Mr Javid approved the plan.

He said, ‘It is contended that the consultation is flawed and was unfit for purpose. The financial figures on which it is based exaggerate the savings available. The consultation document was deliberately biased and written to show Option 1 (No Change) in the worst possible light.

Dr Somerville Ford said he hoped Christchurch Council will ‘proceed with its own judicial review as well.

Matt Prosser, Chief Executive of Dorset Councils Partnership said: ‘We have had no formal notification from any party and so are unaware of the status or basis of any challenge. We are confident that the evidence presented by the six Dorset councils is robust and stands up to any legal scrutiny.’


DEVELOPMENTS AND PROGRESS SINCE THE DECISION

9 April – Excellent letter sent to the Christchurch Times, 5 April

The communities minister is strange – people in Christchurch were invited to vote and 84 per cent voted in favour of Christchurch not merging with other councils. This suggests they did not want a merger and that they are an actual community who know what they do want and what they don’t.

How often we have been told by politicians about the importance of voting – and when we do vote in a referendum our decision is disregarded by people like the communities minister.

He says Christchurch is not viable. Christchurch is solvent with funds in reserve, assets and no debts. Not viable? How does he reach this decision? Why did he not enlighten us all before we went out and voted in a referendum?

There was fake news that a majority in Christchurch was in favour of merging as I recall – the referendum proved it wrong. Now we are told Christchurch is not viable!

Perhaps he is thinking of the two councils he wishes to compel Christchurch to merge with. They have debts, inadequate funds in reserve and no assets to adequately cover those debts. Small wonder they want to merge with Christchurch. Maybe it is they who are not ‘viable’. Perhaps he would like to switch funds and assets into the coffers of these other two councils to help them and import poor decision-making into Christchurch. After all, Christchurch in a unified authority would be outvoted.

People in Christchurch have paid more in council tax than elsewhere for a very long time now in order to have better services properly funded and the poor decision-making that has taken place in other councils has been avoided.

The communities minister has some explaining to do. If he is so inclined I will be here to help him draft a letter of resignation. In fact I would recommend him to do so promptly.

We are told there is no legal basis to appeal the minister’s decision. What a joke – the communities minister; his decision and the legal system standing behind both. Brexit was decided 52 per cent in favour and 48 per cent against and we are told it must go forward because that is what people want. What is different here?

Paul Eden, Mudeford


3 April

A Parish Council for Highcliffe? Echo article


2 April

Merger happenings – Echo report (1); and Echo report (2)


30 March

Powerful speech in Parliament by Sir Chris Chope; Echo article about it.


29 March

Progress – or not. Echo article


20 March

Merger – still fighting


19 March

‘Progress’ in the merger. Echo article


15 March

Christchurch TimesIn today’s Christchurch Times nine people had been interviewed about whether the decision to merge with Bournemouth and Poole should continue to be fought.

A summary of the results is below. Obviously this is not a large sample or representative of the population as a whole, though it probably reflects something of the local demographic. The youngest  age listed is 50, though it is, of course, possible that some  did not want to give their age! Apologies if I have unintentionally insulted some of those here!

The picture above is not legible, as the paper is on sale for the remainder of the week. It is interesting, though, and certainly worth the 40p! Alternatively, it is now online here.

Summary of the survey in the Christchurch Times, March 15 2018


15 March

The merger – a powerful point of view


14 March

Impassioned speeches about the merger. Read The Echo


 

12 March

Once more unto the breach: Echo article about the next action


19 February

Who will lead us if the merger happens? Meeting to take place on Wednesday 21 February. Could it be Jane Portman (Bournemouth), David McIntosh (Christchurch) or Andrew Flockhart (Poole), will it be opened to other applicants? Read the Echo article


7 February

Concern about leaks at the Council! Echo article


3 February

Something new in the Echo about the merger proposal.


29 January

An Echo article about Councillor representation in a new Authority


20 January

Another opinion about the Unitary authority. Echo article. // And another!


17 January

Mr Beesley still grumbling, reported by The Echo!


10 January

Echo item about Mr Beesley, of Bournemouth fame, and the referendum

Another article, about the appointment and role of a Leader if the unitary goes ahead.


9 January

A reply from the company about the consultation. Echo article


8 January

Criticism of the consultation. Echo article


7 January

Two letters (below) to the printed Christchurch Times about the merger. Food for thought … and a chance for comments at the bottom.

__________

We don’t want to be a suburb

‘We say no to joining with Bournemouth and Poole. Bournemouth is a ‘new’ town in comparison with Christchurch.

‘We have not forgotten how Bournemouth council has wasted vast amounts of money over the years: building the BIC when the Winter Gardens had all that was needed to be a conference venue as well as a wonderful home for our world famous Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, now having to be in Poole. Then there is the Imax – what a terrible waste of money that was.

‘Add in the reef, which cost a huge amount, and then those dreadful blocks of concrete in the Boscombe pedestrian precinct, which had to be removed, so more money down the drain.

‘The pedestrian precinct was also a mistake. Many have been made throughout the country and Boscombe has gone downhill ever since. If you travel on a bus through Boscombe and Bournemouth, you would think you were in a Third World country with all the boarded-up shops.

‘Westover Road used to be a mecca for discerning shoppers, now there are homeless people sleeping there.

‘A council who so flagrantly wastes taxpayers’ money on ridiculous schemes is not a good bet for Christchurch. We don’t want to be a suburb of Bournemouth, thank you.’

John and Christine Thackray, Elm Ave, Christchurch

__________

An excellent job

‘It was good of North Dorset MP Simon Hoare to share his view that the Poole, Christchurch and Bournemouth ‘super-council’ “continues to be the best deal on the table as far as service users are concerned.

‘He backed that up by announcing that “my understanding from my constituents is that most people don’t care how their services are delivered, by what body, by what mechanism. All they’re concerned with is that those services are there and delivered as effectively as possible.”

‘No slight is intended to Mr Hoare’s North Dorset constituents, but his words may wash with them, and that’s probably where they should stay rather than voicing off elsewhere.

‘Chris Chope, Conservative MP for Christchurch, is doing an excellent job in trying to represent his constituents’ views whatever the likes of busted council leader Ray Nottage and outsider Mr Hoare think.

Ross Taylor, Raven Way, Mudeford

__________

Finally, an article in The Echo about Brian Clements, former Poole Council Leader. Interesting thoughts.


4 January

 More about yesterday’s possible legal matters.


3 January 2018

They think it’s all over … well, maybe not. Echo article


27 December

High-rise like Bournemouth? Read the Echo.


22 December

More in The Echo about the Unitary proposal.


18 December

Just when you were starting to miss them, another Echo article about the merger!


16 December

I quote from The Echo: The arbitrary decision by Christchurch chief executive, David McIntosh, to ban the press and public (including the local Member of Parliament, Christopher Chope) from Thursday night’s referendum was an astonishing affront to local democracy. Read the full article here, hopefully without getting angry!

__________

And this from Poole:

It literally came from a start point where it asked, ‘Do you think the council should save money?’ “Unsurprisingly, about 95 per cent of people said yes. Then it went immediately on to ask ‘which form of merger do you prefer?'” Excellent item about a Poole Councillor, also questioning the validity of the original consultation.


15 December

It’s in The Echo. Lots of interesting comments to enjoy!


14 December

See the latest Echo article. Mr McIntosh has not allowed any public or press to the count!

 Another Echo article about the Referendum. You’ll miss them when it’s over!

THE RESULT:

  • Total poll: 53%
  • YES to merger: 3321 votes (15.82%)
  • NO to merger: 17676 votes (84.18%)

11 December

Echo article about Council Tax and the ‘Merger’.


9 December

Letter to The Echo from a Poole resident. I disagree with it!


7 December 2017

More about the referendum in The Echo. Yes, really!


4 December 2017

Though I’m a definite Vote No person, in the interests of balance, here is an interesting Echo article about why you should vote yes. The comments are interesting!


3 December 2017

North Dorset MP Simon Hoare’s view. Echo article.

29 November 2017

Letter to the Echo from local M Christopher Chope:

A strong NO vote in Christchurch’s local referendum is essential to the campaign in Parliament to keep Christchurch as a sovereign and independent council.

The government assured me in December 2015 that it would not abolish any council against the wishes of that council.

In January 2017, Christchurch Borough Council and two of the other district councils in Dorset voted against their own abolition and to keep their independence.

Despite this, Bournemouth and Poole joined in an application to the government to merge and absorb the whole area of Christchurch Borough into a new unitary authority.

On 7th November 2017 the Secretary of State announced that he did not believe that what was proposed had secured ‘local consent’ and gave the opportunity to Christchurch council to put forward an alternative.

Local residents now have the opportunity to put on record that they do not consent to Christchurch being abolished and forced to merge with Bournemouth and Poole. This will open the way for an alternative which does have ‘local consent’ to be developed.

Christchurch has a long and proud history. It has used its power over local planning to protect the Green Belt and the environment.

It has a strong policy of giving priority to local people in the allocation of social housing. It has kept its council’s finances on a sound footing, remaining debt free and holding its priceless heritage assets in trust for future generations.

With your support for a strong NO vote, the council will be able to keep control over its own destiny and extend this record of achievement far into the future.

CHRISTOPHER CHOPE MP
House of Commons, London


27 November 2017

Although I am not in favour of a unitary authority with Bournemouth and Poole, in the interests of fairness I reproduce the article below by Peter Watson-Lee of the Christchurch Chamber of Trade and Commerce, published in Highcliffe Eye, Dec 2017.

Peter Watson-Lee‘Great news. The Secretary of State for Local Government has confirmed that he is “minded to” support the plan for the reorganisation of the councils in Dorset.

‘The plan is to reduce the nine councils of different types across the county into two councils. One for rural Dorset and the other for the urban area of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch.

‘I have no doubt that there are going to be howls of protest in Christchurch as a number of groups object to this reorganisation. It needs to be understood, however, that our Christchurch Borough Council only deals with 11% of the council tax budget. The rest is already dealt with elsewhere and much of it is administered by Dorchester who, in my opinion, seem to have little interest in Christchurch.

‘Going in with our natural neighbours of Bournemouth and Poole will enable there to be joined-up thinking across the conurbation. As an example, the state of the road systems in Christchurch must surely benefit from a comprehensive plan for the conurbation. Years of rules from Dorchester have done little to assist.

‘I appreciate there is an argument that this will somehow diminish Christchurch, but I cannot see why. The character of Christchurch comes from its historic buildings, its beaches and quays, its local businesses and excellent hotels and restaurants. It also comes from its community character and its food, music and Christmas festivals. None of those will change and it has been some years since the council has supported those events.

‘The significance of downsizing the borough council to a town council will be lost on most people. It seems small cost compared with the great opportunities that will arise if we can become part of a coordinated ‘City by the Sea’.’

Peter Watson-Lee


23 November: Three today: Echo article 1 and Echo article 2 and Echo article 3!


22 November

Echo report on the merger meeting at The Priory on Monday, 20th


20 November 2017

Echo article, with a viewpoint from Poole


18 November 2017

Anger and division in Council – Report in The Echo
General article about the Referendum principle


17 November 2017

Poole Councillor – another opinion


16 November 2017

In an extraordinary meeting of the Full Council tonight it was decided that the postal ballot will take place. Echo report


11 November 2017

The full text of Sajid Javid’s statement about the proposed merger:

I am announcing today that, having carefully considered all the material and representations I have received, I am ‘minded to’ implement the locally-led proposal for improving local government in Dorset. This was submitted to me in February 2017. In the Dorset area, there are currently two small unitary councils (created in the 1990s) of Bournemouth and of Poole. They are surrounded by a two-tier structure of Dorset County Council and the district councils of Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland.

I am satisfied on the basis of the information currently available to me that this proposal if implemented is likely to improve local government across the area, establishing two new councils with a credible geography, and which would command local support. The existing nine councils will be replaced by a single council for the areas of Bournemouth, Poole, and that part of the county of Dorset currently comprising the Borough of Christchurch, and by a single council for the remainder of the current county area.

I understand that all the councils in the area are already working together in joint implementation committees. However, further steps are needed to secure local consent, and I hope this announcement will facilitate the necessary discussions to conclude this.

Before I take my final decision, there is now a period until 8 January 2018 during which those interested may make further representations to me, including that if the proposal is implemented it is with suggested modifications. It is also open to any council in the area to come forward with an alternative proposal. The final decision would also be subject to Parliamentary approval.

Once I have made my final decision on the Dorset proposal, I will also decide whether to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, Dorset councils’ proposal for a combined authority to facilitate collaboration on certain matters between whatever councils are to be in place in Dorset.


10 November 2017

Echo article about a Council Tax issue


9 November 2017


4 November 2017

Provocative letter in the Echo from Unite the Conurbation to Sajid Javid about the merger. Some contentious points made!


3 November 2017

Issue with and criticism of the merger process – Echo article


31 October 2017

Decision time soon? Echo article about the preparations around the pending unitary announcement – November.


4 October 2017

Another Echo article about the proposed merger


30 September 2017

Echo article about possible progress with the re-organisation of the Councils


10 August 2017

As there has been nothing in the Echo yet* (now added, 11 August), this is my brief summary from the report in today’s Christchurch Times:

At the extraordinary meeting which took place on 8 August, the Councillors voted unanimously to join the other two Councils – Bournemouth and Poole – for talks about local government in Dorset.

Matters under discussion will include:

  • Disaggregation of services
  • Harmonisation of Council Tax and budgets for any new authority which might be created

If the plans are accepted, East Dorset, North Dorset, West Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth and Portland would also merge into one authority.

It was a condition of joining the Committee that meetings will only be quorate when 50% of members and one representative of each authority is present. Christchurch also reserved the right to explore other options while sitting on the Committee.

I quote two Councillors.

First, Cllr Margaret Phipps:
I am very pleased that we are making it clear that we do not support joining these authorities, but we are prepared to sit at the table and co-operate and have discussions on joint working.

Finally, Cllr Colin Bungey:
I support this because we have to be around the table and we have to discuss what’s going to happen if the worst happens. We must continue exploring our options. We have got one of the wealthiest boroughs in the country, we have no debt, we need to try and retain that for the benefit of our residents, for the future.

Comments welcome below.


4 August 2017

Will Christchurch join the Bournemouth and Poole discussions on council reform?
A meeting taking place next week, comments allowed below. Read the Echo article
Report above.


20 July 2017

This morning the headline on the Christchurch Times proclaimed:
Town could make a return to Hampshire in shake-up.

Our MP, Chris Chope, has said, “…you might think if Dorset doesn’t want Christchurch as a second-tier authority, then maybe Hampshire would, which is different from a combination with the New Forest. It would mean going back to what it was like before 1974.”

Note that this is obviously an idea of Mr Chope, nothing has yet been formalised!

On the back page nine residents were asked if they thought it was a good idea to return to Hampshire. Though this would obviously not be a fully representative sample, six thought it would be a good idea, two would prefer to stay in Dorset, and one said it would be fine if it led to financial savings. There is more detail in this Echo article.

Readers were able to vote in an informal poll on this site, which closed on 15 August. The results were:

  • Move to Hampshire: 7 votes
  • Stay in Dorset: 4 votes
  • Don’t mind: 1 vote

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.