The proposal was that Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole would merge, to become a Unitary Authority. The definition of a unitary authority is one in which an administrative division of local government is established in place of a two-tier system of local councils. Thus Christchurch was managed by the Borough Council and Dorset County Council – that is, it was a two-tier authority.
There are well over fifty unitary authorities in England. They exist for administrative efficiency, and are not dependent on size or population. For example, Rutland only has a population of around 40,000, whereas a few are over half a million. It is thought that by simplifying the administrative structure, staffing and service/supply costs can be reduced, with those services throughout the area combined, and economies of scale achieved.
The proposal was made in February 2017. A consultation began on August 30 and finished on October 25. It consisted of a postal survey sent to around 20,000 randomly-selected households, an open online survey, various public meetings, and a few telephone consultations with some of Dorset’s largest companies.
Here are the options in the survey:
Here is a breakdown of the responses:
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.