HOW IT HAPPENED – FROM JULY 2017 TO THE DECISION
LATEST AT THE TOP
26 February – THE DECISION HAS BEEN MADE
Today 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.
In 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 also online here.
The merger – a powerful point of view
Impassioned speeches about the merger. Read The Echo
Once more unto the breach: Echo article about the next action
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
Concern about leaks at the Council! Echo article
Something new in the Echo about the merger proposal.
An Echo article about Councillor representation in a new Authority
Mr Beesley still grumbling, reported by The Echo!
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.
A reply from the company about the consultation. Echo article
Criticism of the consultation. Echo article
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.
More about yesterday’s possible legal matters.
3 January 2018
They think it’s all over … well, maybe not. Echo article
High-rise like Bournemouth? Read the Echo.
More in The Echo about the Unitary proposal.
Just when you were starting to miss them, another Echo article about the merger!
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.
It’s in The Echo. Lots of interesting comments to enjoy!
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!
- Total poll: 53%
- YES to merger: 3321 votes (15.82%)
- NO to merger: 17676 votes (84.18%)
Echo article about Council Tax and the ‘Merger’.
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.
‘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’.’
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
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
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
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