For the last seven weeks, residents, businesses and other stakeholders have been having their say on the future of local government service delivery in Dorset.
The Reshaping Your Councils public consultation, being run on behalf of all nine councils in Dorset by independent expert organisation ORS, started on 30 th August. So far over 3,000 local people have completed the household survey sent to them directly by ORS, with a further 7,500 completing the questionnaire either online or via a copy collected from a library, roadshow or other public building.
Debbie Ward, Chief Executive of Dorset County Council said, on behalf of all Dorset’s councils: “Our efforts over the last seven weeks have been focussed on encouraging local people to have their say and take part in the consultation, which is wide-ranging and fully compliant with best-practice principles. Over 40 roadshows have taken place across Dorset, where we’ve spoken to thousands of residents, and we’ve been encouraged by local people’s receptiveness and enthusiasm for the prospect of change.”
Whether people have been invited by ORS to participate in the household survey, or are giving their views on the consultation via paper questionnaires or online at www.reshapingyourcouncils.uk, Dorset’s nine councils are encouraging people to make their voice heard during this final week of the consultation. All consultation responses that are submitted by the end of 25 th October 2016 will be taken into account, and any postal surveys with a postmark of 25 th October or before will be accepted.
Debbie Ward continued, “We cannot stress strongly enough that no decisions have yet been made by any local authority regarding the future of local government in Dorset. A fundamental principle of the proposal to reorganise local government is to reduce the administrative cost of running services in Dorset, with proposals setting out how this could be achieved by reducing from nine councils to two. This in turn means that a greater proportion of available budget is able to be spent on frontline services than under a two-tier council structure. We want the public’s views about whether they support the proposal for two councils instead of nine, and also ask for their views on options for the geographical boundaries of those two councils, should they go ahead.”
In order to ensure the information required to make a decision is robust, the Councils have employed three highly-regarded and experienced external organisations. Firstly, Local Partnerships, a company jointly owned by HM Treasury and the Local Government Association, to prepare the financial report, which has been in the public domain since the start of the consultation; secondly, Opinion Research Services, who have led numerous public consultations about similar complicated structural changes across the country and are conducting the public consultation in line with government guidance; and finally Price Waterhouse Coopers, who are preparing the case for change, which includes information analysing each option in terms of improving services, local accountability, delivering savings, becoming more efficient and being sustainable.
All Elected Members and the public will have a chance to scrutinise the report of the consultation findings, the financial analysis and the case for change, in public meetings during January, before any decisions are made.