It seems increasing likely that local government in Dorset could be re-organised by April 2019. Instead of the current nine Dorset councils, it is proposed that there would be only two - one for urban Dorset and one for rural Dorset.
The new urban Dorset unitary authority would consist of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch in a new unitary authority, currently referred to as the "South East Dorset Unitary Authority". Christchurch is currently part of the county of Dorset.
The new rural Dorset unitary authority would then consist of the remainder of the county of Dorset in a new unitary authority currently referred to as the "Dorset Area Unitary Authority".
The UK Government's "Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government", the Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP, indicated on the 7th November that he is minded to agree to this proposed plan for the future of Dorset's local government. He also said he will finally decide on this matter on the 8th January 2018. The final decision would be subject to Parliamentary approval,
For more details of the proposals for the future organisation of Dorset's local government, see the Future Dorset web-site:
Hugo Mieville, the North Dorset Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman, said:
'I welcome the clarity that the Secretary of State's announcement has finally given.
However, the proposed new unitary authorities for Dorset will only be truly welcome if they bring both economies of scale and proper democratic local accountability.
In principle, the proposed amalgamation of Dorset council administrations and services into new unitary authorities ought to save costs. But, in practice, great care would need to be taken to ensure that their centralised authority would not then become too remote from the centres of population which they are intended to serve.
Dorchester may seem close to Wimborne, Blandford and Swanage. But it will seem as far away as London (or Brussels!) if attention is not given to the creation of local 'hubs', and the establishment of a sufficient number of councillors for each area.
The Liberal Democrats were the driving force behind the new neighbourhood plans, and are absolutely committed to local accountability.
There are also real concerns about the likely disparities in local rateable income between the two proposed authorities. Not helped by the continued swingeing cuts in government support for all UK local councils.
In short the devil will, as usual, be in the detail...
Already, the existing councils in the Dorset Area, including North Dorset DC, are meeting to plan their implementation of the new rural 'Dorset Area Unitary Authority'. Their joint committee is called the Dorset Area Joint Committee, and they say "their committee are collectively committed to develop a jointly owned, participative environment in which their strengths, experience and expertise can be shared for the benefit of the whole of Dorset."
Two of the councils, East Dorset District Council and Purbeck District Council, have maintained they are not supportive of ‘Future Dorset’, but still they have agreed to have a place on the joint committee to enable them to fully participate as well.
For more details of this committee's activities see the following web-site:
It is anticipated that elections will need to be held in North Dorset, in May 2019, to elect the first councillors from North Dorset for the new "Dorset Area Unitary Authority".