Council leaders welcome Secretary of State’s support for local government reform in Dorset

Statement attributable jointly to:

Cllr Rebecca Knox, Dorset County
Cllr John Beesley, Bournemouth
Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, North Dorset
Cllr Janet Walton, Poole
Cllr Anthony Alford, West Dorset
Cllr Jeff Cant, Weymouth & Portland

“We have bold ambitions for our county, and strongly believe our plan will deliver a bright and successful future for all those who live here.

“We presented overwhelmingly strong evidence to the Secretary of State – evidence of public support, of backing by Dorset’s business community and voluntary sector, and of immense benefits for the whole county.  Our case for change showed that our plans will drive forward the economic prosperity of the county, helping people achieve a better quality of life.

“Two councils will be more efficient, save money and protect public services.  They can begin to secure a sustainable future for the public services that people value and need, including and in particular, essential social care for our growing older population.

“Replacing Dorset’s nine councils with two new ones – structured around the established urban and rural geography of the county – will bring a strong and prosperous future Dorset, with two councils better able to work together in the best interests of Dorset’s residents and the long-term success of the county.

“These two councils will have greater influence nationally, better able to secure vital funding for things such as roads and housing.  This will make the area more attractive to businesses, help them to grow and thrive, meaning enhanced job prospects and better lives for local people.

“We are committed to working together and will take these discussions forward through the established Joint Committees, in which all nine councils are actively participating.

“There is now much for those Joint Committees to do.  They will be responsible for all necessary plans to ensure that both new councils are created by and operational in April 2019.

“The scale of the task cannot be underestimated.  But this immense effort we know will be far outweighed by the scale of the prize that awaits the people of Dorset – a county with a bright future that is healthier, more prosperous, vibrant and inclusive.”

Cllr Rebecca Knox, Leader, Dorset County Council, said:
“We are delighted that at last we have clarity about the way forward for local government in Dorset. Our residents, our staff those in public service, and so many others depend on either receiving services or delivering them, needed this direction, so it is welcome. There is lots to do, but we are ready to meet the challenge, remaining committed to supporting our communities. This now gives us the opportunity to explore new ways to deliver what the residents of Dorset will need in the future.”

Cllr Janet Walton, Leader, Borough of Poole, said:
“Following strong public and partner support for this plan, expectations of delivery are now running high within our communities. 74% of Poole residents backed replacing nine councils with two, with a significant majority supporting a new council for the conurbation area of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch. I would encourage all those Poole businesses, partners and residents who recognise the benefits that this change will bring to once again make their views known to the Secretary of State during his consultation period.”

Cllr John Beesley, Leader, Bournemouth Borough Council added: “This proposal is ambitious, aspirational, and achievable. For the urban unitary area, it will result in savings that mean the new council can begin to ensure services, including adult social care and other vital frontline services valued by the public, are sustainable for the residents of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, long into the future. The new council will serve what geographically is already a single conurbation, albeit one made up of very distinct and characterful towns and neighbourhoods, that we value and will of course preserve.”

Cllr Anthony Alford, Leader, West Dorset District Council, said: “This change promises deliver a prize that is far greater than any council can achieve in its current form. The opportunities to really transform how public services are delivered in the county is striking, and the benefits this would have for local people equally evident.”

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Leader, North Dorset District Council, commented, “Dorset’s councils have a strong reputation for working together for the good of our residents. The Joint Committees formalise that arrangement further, progressing preparations for the two new councils, including the transfer of assets and functions from the old to the new organisations, in readiness for the formal Parliamentary process.”

Cllr Jeff Cant, Leader, Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, said, “We are committed to ensuring the unique history and culture of each Dorset town and village is preserved and protected in Future Dorset, proposing to actively facilitate devolution to local communities wherever this is desired.”