New councils take control in Dorset

Dorset coastline
Image caption A single council will cover Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

Two new unitary authorities have formally taken control in Dorset after nine previous councils were merged.

Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council said the change would "protect frontline services".

The councils previously said about 450 jobs would be lost in the mergers, and £108m would be saved over six years.

The new authorities will hold elections on 2 May, reducing the total number of council seats from 333 to 158.

Image copyright BCP / Dorset councils
Image caption The new councils hope to save £108m over six years

An eight-week consultation held in 2016 found residents "overwhelmingly" supported the plans.

Dorset Council said savings would be made by "reducing back office duplication and management overheads".

It said the final number of compulsory redundancies was not yet known.

Chief Executive Matt Prosser said priority areas would receive increased funding.

"Our first budget protects and invests in... education, social care, waste collection and tackling homelessness," he said.

"This wouldn't have been possible without the reorganisation of our councils."

He said councillors would work to address residents' concerns that local communities would receive "less attention and representation" under the new regime.

'Financial challenges'

The former Dorset County, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth & Portland and West Dorset councils will form the new Dorset Council.

Previous councils in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will combine for the BCP authority, after Christchurch Borough Council lost a legal challenge to the plan.

John Beesley, deputy chair of the shadow BCP executive, said: "The creation of this new council was our strategic response to the financial challenges we face."

Taxpayers in the Dorset Council area face the second highest bills in England, research from the County Councils Network has shown.

A Band D household will pay £2,038 in 2019-20, including charges for police, fire and parish services, while residents in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will pay £1,788 on average.

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