After rejecting a proposal to replace Dorset’s nine authorities with two, East Dorset District Council has voted to be involved in debates leading to a potential merger.
Members of East Dorset District Council have voted to sit on a joint committee be involved in the debates and decision-making leading to the potential creation of a new structure for local government for the Dorset area by taking up seats on a joint committee being set up from September.
At its full council meeting on 10 July members approved joining the committee on the condition that it comprises of six members from Dorset County Council and two members from each district and borough council in the proposed new Dorset area that choose to take up their seats. This means there could be a total of 16 councillors sitting on the committee.
The decision to join the committee does not change the vote taken by members in January not to support the Future Dorset proposal, but means that East Dorset councillors are able to influence plans and have voting rights. Should the secretary of state announce he is ‘minded to’ support the Future Dorset proposal it would be for councillors to then decide if they wish to review their original decision.
The role of the committee will be to look at things such as council tax harmonisation, the disaggregation of services and budgets for any new authority that might be created.
Cllr Simon Tong, portfolio holder for change and transformation, said: “After a full and detailed debate, East Dorset District Council has voted to take part in cross-county discussions on the future of local government in Dorset.
“We voted in January not to be part of the Future Dorset submission and that decision stands. However, members recognise that the interests of East Dorset residents will be best served if our council takes up its seats so that we are able to share in these discussions while we await the decision of the secretary of state.”
The recommendation was amended to include reference to the fact that East Dorset reserves the right to explore alternative options whilst sitting on the Dorset area joint committee.
The merger plan, which aims to save over £100m over six years, involves forming two unitary authorities out of nine: one would merge Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, and the other would be made up of East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland.
Six of the nine councils voted in favour of the merger. These are Dorset County, Bournemouth, North Dorset, Poole, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland. Those against are East Dorset, Purbeck and Christchurch.
If approved by the secretary of state, the merger it would come into effect from April 2019.