The Secretary of State, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP has announced his decision to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, our Future Dorset proposal to replace the existing nine Dorset Councils with two new Councils. One new unitary council will serve the area of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and another will serve the rest of the Dorset area. The full Written Ministerial Statement can be read here.
Leader of the Council, Councillor John Beesley, said: “I am extremely pleased that the Secretary of State has acknowledged the strength of the case we collectively made for a new structure of local government in Dorset, and approved the plans submitted to him. One council serving the established urban area of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will help to protect essential frontline services, will serve all residents far better than the structures we have today, and will be able to positively and strongly represent the area at a national and strategic level, for the benefit of residents and businesses.
“Bournemouth Council has a successful track record of prioritising those frontline services that our residents value the most, whilst putting in place ambitious programmes of regeneration and housing, and returning a balanced budget or better each year. However, the financial pressures presented to all top-tier councils – that is, ourselves, Borough of Poole and Dorset County – in respect of meeting the rising costs of demand-led services of adult social care and children’s services, made the existing structure of local government unsustainable. Despite the best efforts of all councils in Dorset, the ability to squeeze value out of partnership working in its many forms has not and would not reap the financial and other benefits that will be achieved by implementing Future Dorset. I firmly believe public services will be better protected, the economic interests of the area promoted and the quality of life of residents will be improved even further being served by a single, new unitary Council for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.”
This is fantastic news for us all – and the decision has been a long time coming, as we submitted our proposal over a year ago. The decision gives us much more certainty for the future and we are clear about what we need to do to ensure the new council for our area can operate smoothly from 1 April 2019.
We have a governance model in place to ensure our decision making processes are sound – this comprises of a Programme Board (Chaired by myself with membership of senior officers from Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Dorset) and a Joint Committee (Chaired by Councillor Janet Walton, Leader of Poole, with membership of councillors from the four authorities).
Our programme going forward will include the following milestones:
- Completion of the disaggregation of services, budgets and staffing currently provided by Dorset County Council to Christchurch residents
- Approval of the Structural Change Order by Parliament
- Establishment of a Shadow Authority and Shadow Executive Committee
- Decommission the Joint Committee
- Approval of the consequential change orders by Parliament
- Approval of the Medium Term Financial Plan and budget for the new authority
- Completion of service planning for the first day of business
- Appointment of senior staff
- Staff successfully transferred to the new council
We look set to have a very busy year in preparing for the new council as well as continuing to deliver great services to all our residents. We are all excited at the prospect of being part of a new large authority, serving approximately 400,000 residents, with all the opportunities for economic growth and development that will offer. It is, indeed, a once in a lifetime opportunity that we intend to grab with both hands!
Jane Portman, Managing Director