COUNCILLORS will meet next week to discuss a referendum on whether Christchurch should join a new unitary authority with its neighbours.

In January the borough rejected plans to merge with Bournemouth and Poole, amid claims of a flawed consultation and that town residents were opposed to the move.

At an extraordinary full council meeting on Tuesday, members will discuss whether a referendum should be held to settle the question.

Council leader David Flagg said: “Clearly I was elected to represent people from my ward, and the general consensus I received is that people don’t want a unitary authority with Bournemouth and Poole. That is the general feeling.

“The whole point of the referendum at the end of the day is to decide once and for all where we are.”

However Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid is already considering the two unitaries for Dorset proposal presented by Bournemouth and Poole councils, the county council and three districts, and could make a decision as early as next week forcing Christchurch to comply with the plans.

Cllr Flagg said he had met Mr Javid last week and was assured all authorities would be given “reasonable time” to make representations after his “minded-to” decision was made. “Maybe the results of a referendum could be a part of that,” he said.

Council officers are preparing a report on the expected costs and timescale of the referendum, and Cllr Flagg said he would wait to see these before making his own decision. The report will be available on the website when ready.

The referendum plan is likely to prove controversial with some members of the council, including former leader Cllr Ray Nottage, who has already dismissed the idea in an email to colleagues seen by the Echo.

Cllr Nottage was ousted from the leadership role in a party coup over his support for the super council scheme, and he has accused fellow members of being more concerned with ceremony and tradition than protecting services.