Dorset

General election delays Christchurch council merger vote

Civic Offices in Christchurch Image copyright Christchurch Borough Council
Image caption Christchurch Borough Council voted against the merger plans

A referendum over local government reorganisation in Dorset will be deferred from May until after the general election.

Christchurch councillors have voted to postpone a poll about the proposed creation of two unitary authorities.

Residents of the borough are to be asked whether they want the county's nine authorities to merge into two.

The Conservative-controlled authority said the poll would determine its approach to the proposed merger.

The merger plan involves forming one unitary authority of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, and another authority made up of East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland, in a bid to save about £108m over six years.

Six out of Dorset's nine councils have already backed the plans and have submitted their proposal to the secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid.

Christchurch, along with Purbeck and East Dorset, voted against the change in February despite an eight-week public consultation last year revealing Dorset residents "overwhelmingly" supported the plans.

The postal referendum, which will not be legally binding, is expected to cost about £60,000. It was originally planned for the week commencing 15 May, immediately after the county council elections.

David McIntosh, chief executive of Christchurch and East Dorset councils, said: "In light of the announcement to call a general election, members feel it best to defer the referendum until we have a better understanding of how government will look following the results of the election on 8 June."

If the merger is approved it would come into effect from April 2019.

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