CHRISTCHURCH councillors will tell the government they want the two tier council system to remain in rural Dorset.

And they are prepared to take legal action if necessary to prevent a merger with Bournemouth and Poole.

In the December borough-wide referendum, 84 per cent of respondents (17,676) said no to a new conurbation unitary authority.

At last night's extraordinary council meeting, councillors said they recognised that Bournemouth and Poole wanted to come together.

But Conservative council leader, Cllr David Flagg, said the referendum result "gives us a clear mandate to say we do not want to join in."

Colleague Cllr David Jones added the minister, Sajid Javid, should be asked to give them more time "to put together an alternative with full supporting documentation, including a business case.

Cllr Jones said private consultants ORS who carried out the public consultation on merger, owed the council an apology because they claimed borough residents were in favour of the Future Dorset plan.

"Now we know why there was so much opposition to us finding out what the people of Christchurch think."

The council also agreed to take legal advice and if necessary, take legal proceedings 'to protect the interests of the council and residents.'

And if the minister gives the go-ahead to the conurbation council, Christchurch would oppose the passage of any order in Parliament, backing the MP, Sir Christopher Chope.

Cllr Lisle Smith said the council should have looked for alternatives sooner. And Cllr Vicky Hallam said she could not support the council's position, preferring to look at the 'bigger picture' of the Future Dorset proposal.

Strategic director, Ian Milner, warned that the council should find out if the minister would grant more time before they spent any money on consultants or legal advice.

Chief executive, David McIntosh, told councillors they needed to be careful not to incur action from the district auditor. "This could rack up an awful lot of money."

Thirteen councillors voted to support the next moves with six abstentions.

Mr Javid is due to make a decision in February.