Christchurch council referendum bid for merger

Civic Offices in Christchurch Image copyright Christchurch Borough Council
Image caption The meeting will be held at 18:00 GMT on Tuesday 21 March at the Civic Offices in Christchurch

An extraordinary full council meeting will consider initiating a potential £70,000 referendum in Dorset.

Christchurch Borough Council is proposing a vote after plans to reorganise local government were presented to parliament.

The referendum would determine how Christchurch residents feel about the creation of two unitary authorities to replace the existing nine.

Plans to merge Dorset's councils were supported in a majority vote this year.

The referendum could cost the council at least £70,000 if voters cast a ballot in person or £50,000 for a postal vote.

The meeting will be held on 21 March and members are expected to discuss whether residents would support joining the proposed new unitary authority with Bournemouth and Poole.

It comes after six councils out of Dorset's nine backed plans to create two unitary authorities and proposed the changes to the secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid.

The merger proposed forming one unitary authority with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, and another authority with East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland to save about £108m over six years.

Image copyright Christchurch Borough Council
Image caption David Flagg, acting council leader, will meet with councillors to discuss the potential referendum on Tuesday 21 March

Christchurch was one of the authorities to vote against the change in February despite an eight-week public consultation last year revealing Dorset residents "overwhelmingly" supported the plans.

Councillor David Flagg, acting leader, said: "It is vital councillors take into account the wishes of our residents. It is important people have their say.

"The consultation carried out last year presented us with a variety of results and by holding a referendum we will understand what truly matters to our residents."

A date for the referendum is yet to be decided but if the merger is approved it would start from April 2019.

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