CALLS have been made to defer the decision on possible council mergers in Dorset due to a “lack of information”.

The comments were made during a special scrutiny meeting at East Dorset District Council on Thursday night to discuss the ongoing local government review, which could see Dorset’s nine main councils merge into two unitary authorities.

Cllr Alex Clarke, who chaired the local government future task group, told the committee that the council could look at a third option to defer its decision.

“The process has been very rushed to meet the deadline set by central government,” he said.

“And a result it has been a top-down process with the leaders and chief executives involved in private meetings with not a lot of information for ourselves.

“A third option to defer a decision might be helpful as we seem to be under such pressure to abolish this council.”

His comments were echoed by Cllr Shane Bartlett who said there had been a lack of engagement from the Government about what “was likely to be put on the table” when it comes to devolution in Dorset.

“We will be making a leap of faith into the darkness with no idea about what we will be leaping into,” he added.

“At the end of this month we are going to have to make this decision and we don’t know what kind of devolution deal there is going to be on the table.

“The time frame is so fast that it’s damaging to local government in this county.

“We need to go back to Government and say we need more time on this and you need to help us.”

But the council’s chief executive David McIntosh warned members that deciding to defer the decision could leave East Dorset District Council “backed into a corner”.

He said that if the other eight Dorset councils chose to go ahead with the merger then it could leave East Dorset out of the discussions.

He suggested members wait and see what the other councils do over the next couple of weeks before making a decision at full council on Monday, January 30.

A proposal put forward by Cllr Barry Goringe to recommend that cabinet and council request the decision be deferred narrowly lost by five votes to six.

Concerns were also raised about the impact on town and parish councils in Dorset if the merger was to go ahead.

Cllr Bartlett added: “We will be taking away a whole layer of government and there is nowhere that says how town and parish councils are going to deal with that.

“Will they have to increase their precept to deal with their new responsibilities?”

The report from the task and finish group and the minutes of the scrutiny meeting will be presented to cabinet before its meeting on Wednesday, January 25 and the rest of the council before the meeting on January 30.