East Dorset Councillors to debate possible options for future working

At the Full Council meeting on 18 April, East Dorset District Councillors will debate whether to re-examine options for future working across Dorset.

A motion is being put forward to rescind the decision made at the council meeting on 14 December 2015 when members voted not to be part of a Dorset-wide study to look at options for the future governance of the county, including the possible creation of a unitary council or unitary councils for the county.

Since that decision some material factors which were not in the possession of members at the time have come to light. These include the fact that the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 now gives the government the power to put its devolution agenda into practice, even in the face of local opposition.

In addition the Local Government Financial Settlement announced in February 2016 means that East Dorset, following a reduction of 73 per cent in government grant in 2016/17, will be one of only 15 councils in the country to receive no grant in 2017/18.

Since the December meeting all eight other councils in Dorset have agreed to support the financial modelling work which is examining the options put forward for the future of local government in the county. East Dorset is therefore the only council in the county not currently involved in this process.

Should the decision to rescind the decision made in December 2015 be agreed, one of the recommendations in a report going before Full Council is for East Dorset to support the work to examine options for a unitary council or councils to deliver services in the county. A full public consultation would then be commissioned in conjunction with the other principal councils in Dorset.

Cllr Robin Cook, Portfolio Holder for Change and Transformation at East Dorset District Council, said: “When members took the decision not to be involved in the work to look at future options for the county we did not know about the government’s powers with regard to their devolution agenda nor were we aware of just how much government grant we would be losing in the coming years.

“It seems sensible that members now re-examine that decision in the light of that extra information to see whether we believe it would now be more relevant for us to be part of the county-wide work to look at future options for local government in Dorset.”