Members from Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Dorset councils have met for the first time as a Joint Committee to consider Local Government Reorganisation.
At its inaugural meeting (30 October 2017), the Joint Committee elected Poole Council Leader Cllr Janet Walton as Chair, with two Vice-Chairs – Cllr John Beesley (Leader, Bournemouth Council) and Cllr David Flagg (Leader, Christchurch Borough Council).
The 18 councillors agreed terms of reference in readiness for a decision from the Secretary of State that supports setting up two new unitary councils to replace the existing nine authorities in Dorset – including one for the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.
Crucially, the Joint Committee will take forward all work needed to create the new Council, which includes agreeing:
- the content of the Parliamentary ‘Structural Change Order’ that would legally set the council up;
- the process for ensuring that the differing levels of council tax paid within the current council areas are aligned. The Joint Committee agreed to set up a Members Task and Finish Group to begin considering this work and make recommendations to the Committee for consideration at a future meeting.
- how assets, such as buildings and equipment, and services of Dorset County Council are best disaggregated and become the responsibility of the new council for the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.
Chair of the Joint Committee, Cllr Janet Walton, said, “I am delighted that all four councils representing residents within the proposed new authority area are members of the Joint Committee, working together to promote collaborative working between councils. The amount and importance of that work cannot be underestimated. We are assuming a positive decision from the Secretary of State relating to the Future Dorset proposal and setting in place now the work programmes that are needed to create a new council in time for April 2019.”
As well as responsibility for creating the new council, the Joint Committee members would also be required to ensure key senior staff are appointed and set the budget in readiness for April 2019.
The next meeting takes place at Bournemouth Town Hall at 10am on 21 November.