An overwhelming vote against a pan-Dorset unitary council has been made by East Dorset District councillors. They voted 8 for, and 20 against the proposal to examine the financial implications of the options put forward for the reorganisation of local government in Dorset.
Hours before East Dorset made its decision, leader of the council, Ian Monks, stood down from his role as councillor.
On the same proposal, Christchurch Council, who already work in partnership with East Dorset District Council voted 23 for, and one abstention.
The options on the table were:
• 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 and 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.
Leaders of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch Councils, Cllr John Beesley, Cllr Janet Walton, Cllr Ray Nottage issued a joint statement:
“We are disappointed at the decision by East Dorset District Council members not to support working with all other councils in Dorset to commission and subsequently consider an independent examination of the financial implications of a number of options for the future of local government in the county.
“We firmly believe there are compelling reasons to explore options for the future of local government in Dorset, in view of the major financial challenges faced by all councils and the ever increasing demand for services, as well as the Government’s drive for economic growth.
“No change is not a realistic solution and we remain committed to working with other councils to make the case for change in the best long-term interests of our residents and businesses. We will be seeking further discussions with Leaders of all Dorset councils at the earliest opportunity in the new year to discuss how we can take this important work forward.”
Following Mr Monks’ resignation from East Dorset, it is expected that a new leader will be elected in the new year.
Cllr Steve Lugg, East Dorset District Council chairman said, “Ian Monks will be a loss to East Dorset District Council, but full council on Monday (14 December) showed the power of democracy. We are primarily elected to represent the views of residents. I personally am pleased to have the support of Chris Chope OBE MP.”
This post was edited on 16 December to add Cllr Steve Lugg’s comment.