Legislation now passed in both Houses of Parliament means that Dorset residents will be served by two brand new unitary councils from April 2019 – Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, and Dorset Council. The county’s nine current councils will cease to exist on 31 March 2019.
Both new councils will serve around 400,000 residents, putting them within the twenty largest local authorities in the country. These two new councils will have a stronger, co-ordinated voice when bidding for Government funding and investment for things like road improvements, housing, schools and economic regeneration; the things that benefit an area for all those living within it.
Now that the legislation has been approved by Parliament the final Order will be made, and the two Joint Committees, set up to make the local decisions needed to ensure the Parliamentary process could complete, will disband. They will be replaced by two Shadow Authorities – one for each new council area.
At its first meeting, each Shadow Authority is required appoint statutory officers on an interim basis, those roles being the head of paid service, monitoring officer and chief finance officer, as well as appoint Members to relevant Committees and confirm the preceding councils’ nominations to a Shadow Executive Committee.
Each Shadow Executive Committee oversees the implementation plans for the new councils, having taken this responsibility on following the cessation of the Joint Committees.
At a meeting early next year, the Shadow Authorities will be responsible for setting the first budget of each new unitary council. The Shadow Authorities are not involved in ongoing service delivery, as these functions remain with the nine councils that currently exist, and will then transfer to the appropriate new councils in April next year. The focus of the preceding nine councils is to continue to deliver all services between now and April 2019, and make plans for smooth service continuity on day one of the new unitary authorities.