Our proposals for change

Having considered the most efficient and effective options for delivering local services Dorset’s councils are considering reducing the number of local authorities in the county from nine to two. This reform would:

  • Protect frontline services — such as children’s social care, road maintenance, libraries, parks, housing, planning and adult social services — by creating councils that are sustainable, cost-effective, and able to deliver good local services in the long-term.
  • Reduce costs and give better value for money by cutting duplication, increasing economies of scale and improving efficiency. Although reorganisation would have a one-off cost of around £25 million, it would result in substantial savings – of at least £108 million in the first six years.
  • Focus on people and areas by simplifying council structures and basing services around the way people live their lives and identify with a particular area, and how businesses operate.
  • Continue to make councils accountable to local people and retain each area’s local characteristics.
  • Stimulate jobs and promote prosperity, by focusing on the economic opportunities within their respective areas.
  • The two new unitary councils would deliver the services currently provided by the six district and borough councils and Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole.

The nine existing councils would cease to exist. The Dorset Councils Local Partnerships independent financial analysis shows that for the majority of residents, council tax would increase at a slightly lower rate with two new councils, compared to keeping the nine separate councils. You can also read or download the Local Partnerships summary of potential options for the reconfiguration of local authorities in Dorset.

Which options for local government in Dorset are being considered?

There are many different elements involved in considering the future shape of local government in Dorset, including local identity and characteristics, democratic accountability, population size and financial implications.

In Spring 2016, Dorset’s councils employed an independent company to look at the financial details of five possible options for the future structure of local government in Dorset (The Dorset Councils Local Partnerships independent financial analysis). This assessment has been based on the assumption that if we retain the existing nine councils, council tax in each area would need to rise by the maximum level each year because of the budget cuts facing councils from central Government. This level is currently ‘capped’ at a 3.99% a year increase for unitary and county councils, and 1.99% or £5 a year (whichever is higher) for district and borough councils.

We know the level of council tax is important to our residents. Just as now, the future ambition would be for all households to pay the minimum council tax necessary to fund local services. Under proposals for a restructure of local government in Dorset, it has been assumed that any new unitary councils would be restricted to the Government’s current limit for unitary councils of a 3.99% council tax rise.

If a new local government structure is implemented across Dorset, councils would need to make sure that, within an agreed period of time, all residents of one council area pay the same — a process called council tax harmonisation. Read more about council tax harmonisation.

The options being considered by Dorset’s councils:

  • Option 1: Retaining all nine councils
  • Option 2a: Large Conurbation (Bournemouth, Christchurch, East Dorset and Poole, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area) and Small Dorset (North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area)
  • Option 2b: Medium Conurbation (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area) and Medium Dorset (East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area)
  • Option 2c: Small Conurbation (Bournemouth and Poole) and Large Dorset (Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area)

Further information about options 2a, 2b and 2c.