Savings from Dorset councils merger must go into frontline services

The Dorset councils merger will go ahead after the secretary of state for local government today authorised the change.

Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch will form one authority covering the more built-up areas of the county. Dorset county council and the rest of the districts will merge into another.

The Dorset councils merger will take place on 1 April 2019, Sajid Javid announced today.

Both successor councils will be “unitary” authorities with the combined powers of the old district and county councils.

UNISON organiser in Dorset Janine Miller said:

“The point of a reorganisation is to get better services for local people. It remains to be seen whether this will transpire. UNISON will be working with the councils to overcome the inevitable challenges of reorganisation

“Cuts by the government since 2010 mean schools, social care and other services are at breaking point. If this reorganisation can free up money for vital public amenities, that is good for everyone. But it can’t be used as an excuse for further cuts.

“Any money saved must be put back into public services. Public service workers will make sure the Dorset councils merger is as successful as possible. Council bosses owe it them and their communities to put the proceeds back into local services.”

Aileen Powell of Dorset Councils Partnership branch said:

“DCP branch is already working with management to challenge where appropriate, the steps to be taken to form the new Unitary Council. We will work hard to ensure that our members are treated fairly and that they are not disadvantaged by any harmonisation of existing agreed policies, terms and conditions.”

UNISON branch secretary for Dorset county branch Amanda Brown said:

“Dorset County Branch will be scrutinising any developments brought forward as a result of this change to One Council. Our aim is protect jobs and terms and conditions and will continue to work with staff and elected members in order to achieve such outcomes.”

In a joint statment on the Dorset councils merger, UNISON branches in the county said:

“Since 2010 the Government’s austerity agenda has placed considerable pressure on local government finances resulting in significant reductions to services, such as social care, provided to local communities.

“These pressures are intensifying and UNISON can understand why the Local Authorities have been looking to merge to achieve savings.

“Whilst UNISON accepts the authorities have had little choice but to go down this route, we are keen to ensure that this not at the expense of further cuts to public services. Central government are providing no funding to support the merger.

“UNISON understands that £25m has been identified as being needed to pay for the inevitable costs associated with such significant structural, organisational and administrative change.

“These additional costs will have their own pressures and will need to be found from existing, already very financially constrained, budgets. The local UNISON branches will of course be working very closely with the authorities to minimise the impact on staff and people receiving services over what will be a very challenging time limited implementation period.”

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