Thanks so much to Cllr David Jones, who sent an accurate summary of the current situation after the elections. Obviously as one who favours the idea of Keeping Christchurch Special like me (Webmaster), he puts his position at the end, but the facts are clearly expressed and without bias.
Report by Councillor David Jones
Readers may be concerned as to the present position. Some have assumed that the long silence means that this matter is closed. This is not the case. The following brief chronology may be of interest: –
26 March: It was assumed that the Secretary of State would announce his decision on this date, and many supporters of reorganisation understood that it was going to be an approved in principle decision.
28 March: The purdah period for the County Council elections began and at this point it became unlikely that any statement could be made.
4 May: – The County Council elections were held, and those candidates in Christchurch who had opposed unification in their campaign secured increased majorities. By this time the General Election had been announced. This carries its own purdah period.
In mid-May the Conservative General Election Manifesto, to which all Conservative candidates are required to subscribe, was published. This contained renewed pledges that no Council would be forced into a reorganisation without its consent.
8 June: A general election was held resulting in a minority Conservative government. Sajid Javid was reappointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
w/c 12 June: The six authorities favouring the reorganisation wrote to Sajid Javid, asking for a quick decision.
There seems little doubt that senior civil servants are pressing very hard for the government to rule in favour of the merger, and that they are supported by senior local government officers. However, at this point it should be reiterated that:
- The work of Mr AL Rodger and others has cast serious doubt on the financial calculations used to support the scheme;
- Doubts have also been cast on the claim that most people in Christchurch support the takeover by Bournemouth;
- The takeover was strongly opposed by all five Conservative County Council candidates, and by Chris Chope MP. All six secured re-election with considerably increased majorities, which in the case of Chris Chope was against the national swing.
A further point is that in its present weakened position, and given the need to concentrate on Brexit, it may be felt that the Government would wish to avoid further measures which .would lead to conflict in the Conservative Party and which might endanger further seats in any possible premature election.
Looking forward, it seems that there are three possible options: –
- The Government accepts the memorandum put forward by the Six and announces a Minded to Agree decision. This will reignite the campaign and the issue will have to be fought again;
- The Government refuses the Six’s request;
- The Government delays further. From the point of view of those who do not want change this would be good news because there is a terminal date on the enabling legislation – 31 March 2019. in any case there must be doubt as to whether the proposal can be implemented in time for the proposed starting date of 1 April 2019.
I shall update with further information when it becomes available.