TWO Dorset councils have lost their legal manager amid news of closer links with the New Forest.

Sophia Nartey, legal services manager for Christchurch and East Dorset councils, resigned last week and will not be replaced, the authorities said.

Instead her duties will be adopted by democratic services manager Richard Jones, however officers from New Forest District Council will be playing a role in shaping the service.

"Our legal services manager tendered her resignation last week and it was duly accepted," said Ian Milner, strategic director for both district councils.

"Our democratic services manager will take over the day-to-day management of the legal team and also the monitoring officer role.

"Whilst we will be liaising with New Forest District Council in reviewing our service there is no intention to outsource it or enter into a comprehensive partnership arrangement at this stage."

Ms Nartey has worked at the authority for more than five years, and is said to have grown tired of a long distance commute and to be seeking a job closer to her home.

Christchurch and East Dorset councils are already in a partnership, and since both authorities voted to reject the Future Dorset proposals to create two new unitary authorities covering the whole county, there has been speculation they may seek to form a wider partnership with another council.

Purbeck district council, which also rejected the super council proposals, has been mentioned, and the Echo understands both authorities have been discussing potentially sharing services with the New Forest.

Independent Christchurch councillor Colin Bungey has raised concerns about the loss of Ms Nartey.

"I am concerned that we weren't told earlier, at the speed at which this has happened, and that we have no idea what terms have been agreed," he said.

"All we have been told about this is that it is because of her long distance travel.

"If that was a problem could she not at least five three months notice, the appropriate notice period. It all seems very quick."

Cllr Lesley Dedman said: "My only concern is that if we pare down out legal department too much in the long term it will not be good for the council."

Mr Milner said members had been informed "at the earliest opportunity".