Work is taking place to ensure a new unitary authority called 'Dorset Council' will replace, on the 1st April 2019, the current two-tier council structure in the county of Dorset (except for Christchurch BC which will join Bournemouth and Poole at that time.)
The proposal for new councils was made in early 2017 by six Dorset councils: Bournemouth BC, Poole BC, Dorset CC, North Dorset DC, West Dorset DC and Weymouth & Portland BC. Subsequently, two more councils - East Dorset DC and Purbeck DC - also decided to support the proposal. Christchurch BC has only recently, very reluctantly, decided to support the proposals.
The proposal was that there would be one council for urban Dorset and one council for rural Dorset both serving around 4,000 residents:
The new urban Dorset unitary authority would consist of Bournemouth BC, Christchurch BC and Poole BC in a new unitary authority, called 'Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council'.
The new rural Dorset unitary authority would then consist of the remainder of the county of Dorset (namely Dorset CC, East Dorset DC, North Dorset DC, Purbeck DC, West Dorset DC and Weymouth & Portland BC) in a new unitary authority called 'Dorset Council'.
It was estimated that this simplification of organisational structures would save costs of £108m over six years.
The 'Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government' announced he agreed to the proposal in February 2018 and this then led to Parliament's approval on Wednesday 23rd May 2018.
Shadow Dorset Council
One result of Parliament's approval of the structural change orders was that it legally created a new 'Shadow Dorset Council'. This is planning and implementing the creation of the new 'Dorset Council'. The Shadow Dorset Council consists of all the 174 councillors, some double hatted, for the existing six county/borough/district councils that exist now in the future 'Dorset Council' area.
The 'Shadow Dorset Council' has appointed a chairman, deputy chairman, committees and interim statuary officers. The leader and deputy leader of the council were subsequently decided at the first meeting of its Executive Committee.
The 'Shadow Dorset Council' will complete its work and cease to exist at the end of 31st March 2019.
The 'Dorset Council' will start work on the 1st April 2019.
The 'Local Government Boundary Commission for England' (LGBCE) has now made its final recommendations on the number of councillors that should be elected to the new authority as well as the names and boundaries of the council's new wards. The aim of the review is to recommend ward boundaries that will result in each councillor representing approximately the same number of voters. Also the aim is to ensure that the ward boundaries reflect the interests and identities of local communities, as well as promoting effective local government.
Parliament now needs to approve the final recommendations.
For more information see:
The elections of new councillors for the new council will be carried out in May 2019.
Staff Recruitment Costs
Hugo Mieville, the 'North Dorset Liberal Democrats' Parliamentary Spokesperson', has commented on recent announcements on the cost of staff recruitment for the 'Dorset Council'. He said:
''It was bad enough that Conservative councillors on the 'Shadow Dorset Council' voted to spend £50,000 in a national search for a new Dorset Council Chief Executive - only to appoint an 'internal candidate'. Now they have agreed to spend a further £75,000 looking for the five next most senior positions. Yet, all the time, Conservatives are cutting money to care services for children and the elderly, road repairs and libraries. With a change in council should come a change in spending priorities."