The local authorities of Bournemouth, Christchurch, East Dorset and Poole are jointly exploring the possibility of a single, brand new Council to cover their respective geographic areas.
This would see all functions undertaken by the existing councils in these areas, including services currently run by Dorset County Council in Christchurch & East Dorset, being delivered by a new single unitary authority.
All councils involved, stress their commitment to achieving the best possible result for residents across all communities. The benefits are expected to be numerous and include:
- Cost savings and more efficient service provision, through economies of scale, reduced management, better use of assets & buildings, and rationalisation of suppliers.
- Better strategic planning – for example around transport links, land planning and pupil admission numbers in schools.
- Greater access to funding nationally and internationally.
- Enhanced economic growth opportunities – through available employment land, a combined tourism offer, a plentiful and skilled workforce, and the location of 60% of all businesses in the county within the south east Dorset area.
If agreed, new council would be formed in April 2019, just ahead of the May local elections. It would serve a population of up to 487,000 residents, making it the eighth largest local authority in England, with an annual spending power in excess of £1billion.This would then need to be considered and approved by central government.
Before detailed planning can get underway, all affected councils need to formally consider and agree the proposal. It is intended that this initial decision to proceed ‘in principle’ is made by spring 2016. A business case will then be produced, including the costs needed to set up the new council, the financial savings it would deliver, the number of councillors needed, managerial structures and definitive boundaries.
Councillor John Beesley, Leader of Bournemouth Council, said “One council for south east Dorset is a significant opportunity for residents and businesses. We are keen to utilise new devolution powers being created by central government to benefit the economic prosperity and quality of life for residents, to achieve more joint-working on service delivery and management, to drive down costs further and allow us to plan wider than traditional local government boundaries. It is important that we consider all options in detail, and we must get this right. I believe that, given the significant economic concentration in south east Dorset, this geographical combination makes the most sense for local residents.”
Cllr Ray Nottage, Leader of Christchurch Borough Council, “We all agree the principle that, if the new council goes ahead, existing mayoralties should be maintained. There will be a need for a meticulous evaluation of existing civic identities and traditions, seeking to preserve those things that our communities value the most, that help to shape our respective senses of identity. Each community’s interests and views will be sought as we seek to ensure that all residents can identify with and have confidence in any new council that is formed.”
Cllr Ian Monks, Leader of East Dorset District Council said, “The shape of local government will inevitably change as a direct result of the ongoing reduction in central government financial support, rising service demands and the opportunities provided by increased devolution of powers. Failure to change will result in fewer and poorer services to the public and so this is not an option we can afford to ignore.”
Cllr Janet Walton, Leader of the Borough of Poole said, “Councils need to save tens of millions of pounds over the next three years and it is difficult to see how this will be achieved without a fundamental solution. This proposal would provide the prospect of transforming the provision of frontline services though integration, through economies of scales, and through consistency in service quality.”