Residents in Dorset have given their ‘clear backing’ for changing local government structures.
The results of a full public consultation--called Reshaping your Councils--have shown the county’s population supports proposals to reduce the nine councils down to two unitary authorities--despite criticisms the consultation was ‘undemocratic’.
The consultation, which ran from 30 August to 25 October and received 17,000 responses, found almost three-quarters support reducing Dorset’s councils from nine to two.
There was majority support for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to be served by one new council, with East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset & Weymouth & Portland areas served by a second new council.
A detailed study undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCoopers looking at the Government’s five criteria for change also cites a compelling case for local government reorganisation in Dorset.
A financial review found change delivers £108m of savings over the six years after the transition.
A statement from Dorset’s nine council leaders welcomed the findings.
‘We are passionate about the Dorset of the future,’ they said.
‘We are collectively committed to doing the right thing for our residents and for the county – to protect services, to raise Dorset’s profile, to grow the economy, and to generate prosperity and an enhanced lifestyle for all those who live here.
‘Receiving these reports today marks a significant point in our road to securing Dorset’s future, and is testament to our commitment to get this right.’
Scott Bailey, PwC Partner, also commented: ‘The Dorset councils commissioned this report to assess proposals to replace the nine current councils with two new unitary authorities in the county.
‘While the current councils in Dorset are performing and working together well, the evidence suggests that they could achieve even more by reorganising and changing the way in which they operate and deliver services.’
The consultation has, however, been criticised in the past as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘biased’.
Dorset's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martyn Underhill warned in August that it would only reach one in 10 people. He recommended a referendum would be more democratic.
He also said the option of a single Dorset unitary authority should have been made available.