In view of general opposition, late in 2017 it was decided that a referendum of local Christchurch residents and businesses would be undertaken. This was financed privately.
The section below shows the basic facts, and the voting form.
First, the basic information to help you make your decision:These are the instructions for the voting form.There is a tear-off section at the end. You must return this in the pre-paid envelope provided, or you can deliver it yourself to the Council Offices.Finally, here is my voting slip completed. As you can see I have sensibly voted NO to the merger!Result: Unsurprisingly, Christchurch voted against by 84%, on a 53% turnout (21,000 people).
On 30 July 2018, a Judicial Review was heard in the High Court. There had been a lot of debate about whether this review should take place at all, especially as the cost would be around £200,000.
Just two of the more-restrained comments on social media give only a mild indication of the strength of feeling:
Good luck Christchurch. A lot of people who believe in democracy and local representation is hoping you will win the day.
And the rest of us, who don’t appreciate taxpayer funds being wasted in frivolous cases designed to oppose the efficient delivery of services, fully expect you to lose.
The Review was denied. Here is what the Bournemouth Borough Council said about it:
Christchurch Borough Council has spent a very significant amount of council tax payers’ money in pursuing this legal action. The High Court has rejected that challenge and we hope that all Christchurch Borough Councillors will now accept that judgement, and fully take part in planning for and making decisions about the new council.We are optimistic this matter is now behind us, and we can look forward to working together to create the best new local councils we can, to protect public services as much as possible, and to secure future growth and prosperity for our areas.
Debate continued about the possibility of an appeal, but after taking advice, finally the merger was accepted. This is the statement of Christchurch Borough Council Leader, David Flagg:
Having been refused leave to appeal by the judge it was important that the advice of Counsel and Officers was considered when deciding the best way forward. In light of the decision we feel that the best way for us to proceed is to focus our work on getting the best for our residents as we move towards local government reorganisation on 1 April 2019.Whilst we are of course extremely disappointed with the decision of the judge the Council has fought to represent the wishes of our residents throughout this process.Having pursued every avenue available to us we must now accept that the Council will be abolished next year. We apologise that we were not successful in keeping Christchurch independent and thank all the residents who supported us in our attempts.And so it was over. Here is the calendar of subsequent events