Government Approves Unitary Councils for Dorset

In an historic moment for public services in Dorset, the government has given the green light to plans to create two new unitary councils in Dorset

Local Government Minister, Sajid Javid, announced today that he will progress his initial ‘minded to’ decision to create two new unitary authorities in the county, replacing the existing nine councils.

Each authority will deliver all local government services in their respective areas. One will cover Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, and the other will serve the rest of the county. Subject to legislation, the new councils will come into existence in April 2019.

This change will help protect local services. It will help generate further economic growth, reduce costs, and provide more efficient, brand new councils structured around communities.

The Secretary of State has reviewed all the evidence and representations received since making his ‘minded to implement’ announcement. He has now confirmed his decision that replacing nine councils with two unitary authorities is in the best interests of residents in Dorset. Parliamentary Orders will follow later this year. Decision-making bodies will be appointed to determine the structure, budget and service delivery models of each new council. 

In a joint comment, the council leaders of Bournemouth (Cllr John Beesley), Dorset County (Cllr Rebecca Knox), North Dorset (Cllr Graham Carr-Jones), Poole (Cllr Janet Walton), West Dorset (Cllr Anthony Alford) and Weymouth & Portland (Cllr Jeff Cant) councils – who submitted the original proposal to the government, and East Dorset (Cllr Spencer Flower), and Purbeck (Cllr Gary Suttle) councils – who withdrew their opposition to the proposal earlier this year, said: 

“This is an historic day for public services in Dorset. Now we have received this decision, we can collectively focus our efforts, through the established Joint Committees, on creating two brand new councils.  This will be a challenge but we will work hard to ensure our communities receive the services they expect and deserve. 

"Our strong track record of partnership working in Dorset, whether through shared Chief Executives and management teams or joint service delivery, demonstrates our ability to put in place creative and innovative ways of working, and shows we will always put the provision & preservation of essential frontline public services and the interests of our residents first.  "This is about so much more than the reorganisation of council structures in Dorset.  The opportunity to change the way we provide services will help us save money, give greater accountability to council tax payers and service users, and protect public services for future generations.”  

In addition, Leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, Cllr John Beesley said:“I am extremely pleased that the Secretary of State has acknowledged the strength of the case we collectively made for a new structure of local government in Dorset, and approved the plans submitted to him. One council serving the established urban area of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will help to protect essential frontline services, will serve all residents far better than the structures we have today, and will be able to positively & strongly represent the area at a national and strategic level, for the benefit of residents and businesses.

“Bournemouth Council has a successful track record of prioritising those frontline services that our residents value the most, whilst putting in place ambitious programmes of regeneration and housing, and returning a balanced budget or better each year. However, the financial pressures presented to all top-tier councils – that is, ourselves, Borough of Poole and Dorset County – in respect of meeting the rising costs of demand-led services of adult social care and children’s services, made the existing structure of local government unsustainable.

Despite the best efforts of all councils in Dorset, the ability to squeeze value out of partnership working in its many forms has not and would not reap the financial and other benefits that will be achieved by implementing Future Dorset. I firmly believe public services will be better protected, the economic interests of the area promoted and the quality of life of residents will be improved even further being served by a single, new unitary Council for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.”