For news after this, see Merger Latest
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