Christchurch referendum rejects Dorset councils merger

Dorset coastline
Image caption Dorset's nine councils will become two unitary authorities in April 2019

Residents have voted against plans to merge Dorset's nine councils into two unitary authorities.

A referendum in Christchurch saw 84% vote against plans to merge with Bournemouth and Poole councils.

Christchurch Borough Council leader David Flagg said the authority would agree a "robust representation" to the government.

Secretary of State for Local Government Sajid Javid previously said he was "minded to" approve the plan.

Under the Future Dorset proposals, Dorset County Council would cease to exist and Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch would merge.

A second authority would also be formed from the more rural councils of East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth and Portland, and West Dorset.

The reorganisation was proposed after it emerged the authorities had to make £200m of savings by 2019.

Only opposition

More than 21,000 people took part in the Christchurch referendum, a turnout of 53%.

"It was extremely important to Christchurch Borough Council members that we heard the views of our residents," Mr Flagg said.

"The result of the poll clearly shows that the majority of Christchurch residents do not support becoming part of a unitary council with Bournemouth and Poole."

It leaves Christchurch as the only authority opposing the plans. Earlier this month East Dorset and Purbeck district councils agreed to a merger with other authorities, having previously opposed the scheme.

A period of representations from the affected councils will run until 8 January when Parliament will have the final say.

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