New councils prompt judicial review Dorset

Leader of Shadow Dorset Council, Cllr Rebecca Knox

Caption: Leader of Shadow Dorset Council, Cllr Rebecca Knox.

Political | Posted: Thursday, June 21st, 2018 at 3:23 pm | return to news

Judicial review in the shadows as new councils take shape in Dorset

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Shadow Authority and the Shadow Dorset Council both held historic inaugural meetings in June.

Leader of Shadow Dorset Council, Cllr Rebecca Knox

Caption: Leader of Shadow Dorset Council, Cllr Rebecca Knox.

Shadow BCP Authority is made up of all 125 council seats across the four preceding councils. In total there are 120 councillors as the five representing the Christchurch divisions of Dorset County Council are also Christchurch Borough Council councillors.

Cllr Ray Nottage was elected chairman at the first historic meeting, on 6 June. He said it was an important step forward for local government in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole adding, “We have a lot of work to do before 1 April 2019 to ensure key senior staff appointments are made and to set the budget, but it is important we address both the opportunities and challenges we face together.”

Cllr Ann Stribley of Borough of Poole was elected as vice-chairman. Jane Portman was appointed to the interim role of head of paid service for the Shadow Authority. Tanya Coulter and Adam Richens were appointed as interim monitoring officer, and interim S151 officer. These roles cover the interim period whilst the Shadow Authority operates. Permanent appointments will be made at a later date.

The Shadow Executive Committee has also been established. Made up of 16 councillors, it will take key decisions on service delivery and, where necessary, make recommendations to the Shadow Authority for consideration. Cllr Janet Walton of Borough of Poole was elected as its chairman on 15 June, and Cllr John Beesley of Bournemouth Borough Council was elected as vice-chairman. They will also take on the roles of leader and deputy leader for the Shadow Authority. An advertisement for a permanent chief executive to the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will go live this month (July 2018).

Shadow Dorset Council consists of all 174 council members and will ensure the legal transition from the six existing councils to the new Dorset Council next April, with elections in May 2019.

Cllr Hilary Cox was appointed as chairman and Cllr Peter Shorland as vice chairman on 7 June. Member nominations to other committees were also approved including the 20 seats of the newly established Shadow Executive Committee, which met for the first time on 18 June. Cllr Rebecca Knox was elected as chairman along with vice-chairman, Cllr Gary Suttle. Cllr Knox will automatically assume the position of the leader of the Shadow Dorset Council. She said, “I am delighted to be elected as leader of the Shadow Dorset Council. We have listened to our residents and are doing what they’ve asked us to do in creating a new Dorset council…
“We come from six different council areas, but we become one here. We will have no boundaries and we are committed to working together with a collective responsibility to do the best for our residents. I look forward to working with everyone to deliver our new council. This is a very exciting time for us all.”

The new Dorset Council will serve around 377,000 residents.

But not all residents are in favour of the unitary changes and following a public referendum in Christchurch, proceedings have been issued in the High Court by Christchurch Borough Council for a Judicial Review of the secretary of state’s decision to implement local government reorganisation in Dorset. Permission to apply for a Judicial Review was to be considered on 15 June, but at the time of writing, the outcome was still awaited. Should the Judicial Review go ahead, Christchurch Borough has set aside £200,000 of funding from unallocated reserves.

********* UPDATE 22 June 2018 *********

Judge says proceed to High Court

Christchurch Borough Council has been granted permission to have its Judicial Review application heard in the High Court.

The council, whose policy is to oppose local government reorganisation, made the application for a Judicial Review in May after seeking legal advice.

Cllr David Flagg, Leader of the Council, Christchurch Borough Council, said, “Christchurch Borough Council firmly believes the regulations that have passed through Parliament approving the creation of two new unitary councils in Dorset are ultra vires. Based on the local poll we believe the majority of our residents remain opposed to local government reorganisation in Dorset and being granted permission to have our Judicial Review application heard in the High Court demonstrates that we have an arguable case.

“Whilst the Government might believe that our case is absurd that it is clearly not the view of the Judge and we believe we have a strong legal argument. The Council has been thorough and meticulous in its approach and being granted permission sends a strong message that the case is wholly with merit. I am pleased that we are able to continue to challenge the abolition of Christchurch Borough Council in line with the wishes of those we were elected to represent and we will continue to do so.”

Christchurch Borough Council officers will now work with its legal advisors preparing the case for a substantive hearing.

The Honourable Mrs Justice Lambert has ordered that the case will be expedited and heard in the High Court as soon as possible by 27 July.

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