Dorset councils merger plan 'supported by residents'

Dorset coastline
Image caption Proposals include the possible merger of councils in Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset

Residents in Dorset have "overwhelmingly" supported plans to merge the county's nine councils into two, council executives have said.

It follows the results of an eight-week public consultation which ran from 30 August to 25 October.

Councils are considering four options from 2019. That includes retaining all nine authorities.

The merger plan comes after it was revealed the authorities had to make £200m of savings by 2019.

Cutting the number of councils in the area is expected to save about £108m over six years.

Image caption Council officials revealed the results of the consultation at a meeting in Poole

One of the proposals is the merger of Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset, and the formation of a smaller conurbation of North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland.

Another option is for the existing unitary authorities of Bournemouth and Poole to combine, leaving the rest of Dorset to merge.

However, according to officials, the most popular choice is for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to join forces, with the remaining councils forming a second unitary authority.

A fifth of the 20,000 households who were sent surveys responded.

More than 12,000 online open questionnaires were also completed and a number of workshops held in each area.

Job cuts

Figures showed the majority of residents supported moving to two councils, with 68% of open questionnaires and 73% of household surveys in favour.

This change could see councillor roles cut from the current 331 to about 180, as well as the potential loss of about 450 council jobs - mainly focused on senior roles.

Each council will now discuss the proposals early next year, and a final decision will then be made by the government.

The changes have previously met opposition, including from Christchurch MP Chris Chope who said it was "an attack against democracy".

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