Members of Dorset County Council will debate the future shape of local government in Dorset at a special council meeting on Thursday, 10 March.
County councillors will discuss their views of a range of options for the future of local government across Dorset, including the make-up of one or more new unitary councils in Dorset.
The county’s nine councils have agreed to create a separate combined authority to oversee some strategic decisions supporting economic growth across the whole county. They are working together on a bid to central Government to request devolved powers to the local level.
The meeting will be an opportunity for councillors to have an open discussion around the potential options, considering Dorset’s history, previous local government reorganisation proposals, how the current legislation works, the positives and negatives of the various options, and the timescales for change.
Dorset County Council leader, Cllr Robert Gould said: “The current set-up of local government is not sustainable with the pressures we now face and we need to think carefully about how it could work better for Dorset. This debate is a first step for the county council towards shaping that future.”The next few months are a chance for communities and councils to work together to design an exciting future for Dorset’s democracy. We need to focus our energies on the best model for local people, creating councils that make geographic sense but also deliver effective and efficient services.
“These are challenging times but together we can make a real difference, save money and improve the lives of our residents, particularly those in greatest need. I look forward to hearing the views of my fellow county councillors and debating the options with them.”
Over the past six months, councils in Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole have been discussing the future of local government in Dorset. The full council meeting next week will not result in Dorset County Council making a definitive decision, which would come later in the year with the benefit of a full business case.
The meeting will give county councillors a chance to consider some of the options that have emerged from these discussions and consider them from the point of view of Dorset residents. The debate is an important one since it will help shape and inform future decisions about reorganisation.
The aim is for any change to local government in Dorset to be in place in 2019. To achieve this proposals would need to be submitted to the Department for Communities and Local Government in early 2017.
The county council meeting is open to the public, and starts at 10am on Thursday 10 March in the council chamber at County Hall in Dorchester. There will also be a live Twitter feed from the meeting – follow @DorsetCC or use #localgovDorset