District and county councils to be replaced by unitary
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 the creation of 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, including West Dorset.
Subject to legislation, the new councils will come into existence in April 2019.
Existing councillors believe this change will help protect local services, 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 announcing he was “minded to” support the proposals last year, and 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 and decision-making bodies will be appointed to determine the structure, budget and service delivery models of each new council.
Councillor Rebecca Knox, chairman of the Dorset Area Joint Committee and leader of Dorset County Council said: “On behalf of the Dorset Joint Committee I am delighted that we have been given this opportunity to create a new council for the heart of the county across Dorset.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remodel local services with our communities and partners to be responsive, innovative and above all else, efficient and effective.
“As a Joint Committee we have already begun the work needed to take this huge step forward to providing better, joined-up services, that make sense for residents across the breadth of the county area. We have a strong financial case and will take this work forward making clear decisions at our meetings, supported by our task and finish groups.
“We are committed to building on our positive collective work to develop a thriving economy, support and encourage aspirations for our young people and deliver services that make a positive difference to people’s lives.
“We will work with our colleagues in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to make sure individuals who rely on our services, staff and services are transferred in a seamless and positive way.
“Local government reform offers an opportunity to move to shared and collective delivery, with a democratic mandate that can act quickly as we work even more closely with our communities and partners to make sure Dorset is a great place to live and work. The way forward for Dorset will focus on investing in our future, good education, a growing economy and good service delivery. It is what our staff strive to deliver, what our residents need, and why councillors carry out the work they do.”
‘Vision of better local government’
Councillor Anthony Alford, leader of West Dorset District Council, added: “This is excellent news. Many of us have been working for a long time now to deliver a vision of better local government.
“We want to deliver good local services within our means, safeguard our unique natural environment, and support people to have a home and develop their careers in Dorset. The final decision by the Secretary of State is another milestone on that journey.”
Mr Javid’s full statement supporting the proposal for two unitary authorities read as follows: “On November 7 I told the House that I was minded to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, the locally-led proposal I had received for improving local government in Dorset, and I invited representations before I took my final decision.
“Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, that locally-led proposal to replace the existing nine councils across Dorset – two small unitary councils of Bournemouth and Poole and the two tier structure of Dorset County Council and the district councils of Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, and Weymouth & Portland by two new councils.
“These new councils are a single unitary council for the areas of Bournemouth, Poole, and that part of the county of Dorset currently comprising the Borough of Christchurch, and a single unitary council for the rest of the current county area.
‘Good deal of local support’
“I am satisfied that these new councils are likely to improve local government and service delivery in their areas, generating savings, increasing financial resilience, facilitating a more strategic and holistic approach to planning and housing challenges, and sustaining good local services. I am also satisfied that across Dorset as a whole there is a good deal of local support for these new councils, and that the area of each council is a credible geography.
“In my statement of November 7 I noted that the nine councils were already working together in joint committees on planning possible implementation of the proposal, and that further steps were needed to secure local consent. I am clear that further steps have been taken, and that the nine councils are continuing to work constructively together on planning implementation.
“I now intend to prepare and lay before parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decision. My intention is that if parliament approves this legislation the new councils will be established on April 1 2019 with the first elections to the councils held on May 2 2019.
“I also now intend to make and lay before parliament an order to delay for one year, as requested by the borough council, the May 2018 local elections in Weymouth & Portland so as to avoid members being elected for only one year if parliament approves the legislation establishing the new councils.
“Finally, in my November 7 statement I said that once I had made my final decision on the Dorset proposal, I would decide whether to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, Dorset councils’ proposal for a combined authority. As a first step I intend now to ask the leaders of the Dorset councils how they would like to proceed with their combined authority proposal in the light of my decision on the proposal.”
For full details on the proposal, visit https://futuredorset.co.uk