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Could Dorset's District Councils Be Abolished?

County Hall 3

Published at 6:47am 16th December 2015.

The future of local government in Dorset will be top of the agenda tonight.

The council's cabinet are set to look at three options, which include a single local authority overseeing the whole of the county.

Members of the public will have their say in the new year.

Options for the future shape of local government in Dorset will be considered by Dorset County Council's Cabinet later.

The report to Cabinet outlines three options to be explored in an independent study:

    A single, pan-Dorset unitary council providing local services for the whole Dorset county area.

    A new unitary council for South East Dorset, providing local services for Bournemouth, Christchurch, East Dorset and Poole; with a separate arrangement for the rest of Dorset.

    A 'no change' option retaining the existing local government structure of all nine councils in Dorset.

As well as these, any other viable options for unitary authorities across the county would also be looked at.

The Cabinet will consider recommending that the county council authorises the development of a case for changing the existing local government structure in Dorset.

The report recommends commissioning work through the Local Government Association to examine the different options on behalf of all nine councils.  

It sets out two main reasons for considering a change to the local government structure in Dorset:
    sustaining public services with significantly reduced funding; and
    realising the potential for economic prosperity in the area.

By 2020, it is likely that a combined total of £82 million of government funding will be removed from the nine councils in Dorset, making the current model of local government across the county increasingly difficult to sustain.

The Leaders of all nine councils have agreed to work together to seek agreement on the future structure of local government across the whole county.  They recently met with the communities and local government secretary, Greg Clark, to discuss the options for Dorset.

Cllr Robert Gould, Leader of the Dorset County Council, said:

"I am pleased that Leaders of the nine councils have jointly agreed to an independent study of the options for the future shape of local government in Dorset.

"We already deliver many services on a pan-Dorset basis and I believe we need build on our track record to secure an ambitious devolution deal from government.

"Reductions in government funding and increasing pressure on services such as adult social care call for bold and innovative thinking. I believe the evidence is likely to show this can best be achieved on a county-wide basis.

"I was very heartened by our recent meeting with the secretary of state and I am determined to seize this opportunity to do things differently. He has encouraged us to look at a fuller range of options for future governance in Dorset, so we will include this in our thinking.

"We will put the needs and aspirations of our residents and businesses at the heart of any changes and will ask for their views before any big decisions are made."

Once the options have been evaluated they will be debated at a meeting of the full council.   

Should all nine councils agree to further examine the options, more detailed work to develop a business case, including arrangements for consulting the public, will start in early 2016.

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