With the closing date for the consultation on the shape of local government fast-approaching, residents and businesses are being urged to have their say.
People are being asked to give their views on a range of options proposed by all nine Dorset councils to address the unprecedented financial pressure on local services across the county.
The eight-week public consultation, called Reshaping Your Councils, closes on Tuesday 25 October 2016 and the councils are keen to hear from as many people as possible across the county.
The options for consultation are:
1. Retaining all nine councils (Bournemouth Borough Council, Christchurch Borough Council, Dorset County Council, East Dorset District Council, North Dorset District Council, Poole Borough Council, Purbeck Borough Council, West Dorset District Council, and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council).
2. Creating two new unitary councils for Dorset covering either:
2a. Large conurbation: Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset, and the services currently delivered by Dorset County Council in this area; and Small Dorset: North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland, and the services currently delivered by Dorset County Council in this area;
2b. Medium conurbation: Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, and the services currently delivered by Dorset County Council in this area; and Medium Dorset: East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland, and the services currently delivered by Dorset County Council in this area;
2c. Small conurbation: Bournemouth and Poole; and Large Dorset: Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland, and the services currently delivered by Dorset County Council in this area.
Steve Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Purbeck District Council is urging people to have their say before the deadline of 25 October.
Commenting on behalf of all the Dorset councils, he said: “This is an opportunity for all local people to have a say on future council services throughout Dorset. Please get involved as the proposals will potentially shape how your councils deliver services for years to come.”
Dorset’s nine councils collectively spend £920million a year on services for local people, including housing, planning, social care, protecting the vulnerable, running libraries, maintaining roads and emptying bins.
These councils receive £142m per annum less Government funding today than they did in 2010/11. Over the next two years to April 2019, a further £52m will need to be saved to balance further funding cuts and service pressures. Therefore, by 2019/20, Dorset’s councils will need to have reduced their annual spending by almost £200m since 2010/11.
Steve Mackenzie continued “The councils will jointly need to save a further £30 million between 2019 and 2025. Change is being considered now to minimise future cuts to services, beyond 2019/20. We want to hear the views of local people before any decisions are made.”
The consultation is being run independently by research company Opinion Research Services. So far, over 9,000 people have completed a questionnaire at www.reshapingyourcouncils.uk or responded to a survey sent to 20,000 households across Dorset.
Paper copies of the questionnaire are also available in libraries across Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole.
Over 8,000 residents have also had the opportunity to talk to councillors and council officers at roadshow events which have been taking place around the county and there’s still time to visit one. Look at the reshapingyourcouncils.uk website to find out where the remaining roadshows are being held.
If the councils decide to proceed with local government reform, a business case will be presented to government early in 2017.
Councillors will make their decision based on the results of the consultation, independent financial analysis and a detailed case for change. If agreed, new councils would begin delivering services from April 2019, with elections in May 2019.