Christchurch Chamber of Trade

Some thoughts about the reorganisation, from Peter Watson-Lee
Published in the Highcliffe Eye, November 2016 issue

Highcliffe Eye, November 2016On the face of it, the proposal to scrap the nine different councils that run Dorset and replace them with two seems sensible.

If you were starting afresh, you would never devise the current complex maze of nine different councils with differing powers. The result is significant duplication of departments and services. There are six chief executives and 330 councillors spread across the county.

Reducing the councils to an urban council covering the built up area of Bournemouth and Poole and then a rural council for West Dorset is bound to result in significant savings in years to come.

The dilemma for Christchurch, however, is particularly acute.

We love our town. We have our own particular mix of history and identity. The proposal would mean our borough council status be “downgraded to a town” council. This would reduce the council’s powers but we are told that we would still be left with a mayor. Having said that, at present only 11% of our services are actually provided by our borough council.

The question is how much of our local identity is due to having a borough council and would the reduction to a town council diminish us?

If the restructuring takes place, the second issue is do we choose to join Bournemouth and Poole or go with the rest of rural Dorset? The Bournemouth and Poole option would seem sensible but there are natural fears that we would be swallowed up. Going with greater Dorset and seeing our major functions based, in all likelihood, in Dorchester is not attractive either.

The saving grace? For the restructuring to take place the 330 councillors need to vote it in. One result would be a dramatic reduction in the number of councillors; are they really going to vote themselves out of power?’

Peter Watson-Lee
Christchurch Chamber of Trade