Christchurch fails in High Court bid over Dorset merger plan

Image caption,
Dorset's nine councils will become two unitary authorities in April 2019

A local council has failed in its bid to halt authorities in Dorset being merged.

Christchurch Borough Council formally opposed plans to replace the county's nine councils with two unitary authorities.

It believed it had "an arguable case against the Secretary of State", but its challenge was rejected at the High Court.

The authority said it was "disappointed" with the judgement.

Christchurch Borough Council has until 16:00 BST on Wednesday to apply for permission to appeal against the judgement.

It has also been ordered to pay costs totalling £50,000.

Under the merger plans, all nine councils would cease to exist and Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch would merge.

A second council would be formed from Dorset County Council, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth & Portland and West Dorset.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Christchurch Borough Council said the government had acted "beyond its powers"

Christchurch Borough Council told the government it had acted "beyond its powers" in laying the changes before Parliament in March.

In a letter to the council, the government previously described the authority's bid as "absurd".

Supporters of the changes to local government in Dorset, due to come into effect in April 2019, said they could save £108m over six years.

David Flagg, leader of Christchurch Borough Council, said: "We are disappointed by today's judgement.

Possible appeal

"We have been advised that a number of points set out in the judgement are still arguable in law and therefore we will be responding to the judge on these.

"Depending on his response we will consider whether an appeal to the Court of Appeal would be appropriate or not."

A joint statement on behalf of the other councils said they were "delighted but unsurprised" by the judgement.

A Freedom of Information request by the BBC in June revealed Christchurch had already paid £15,845 to its legal advisors and had set aside £200,000 to cover further legal fees.

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