THE government does not have the legal authority to implement the council restructure in Dorset, anti-merger campaigners say.

A motion submitted for debate at next week’s full council in Christchurch says “there is no legislative statutory authority” for the application by Dorset councils to restructure the current nine local authorities into two unitaries.

It claims that both the application and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to approve it in February are unlawful and beyond powers - ‘ultra vires’ in local government language.

If true, it could strengthen the council’s hand in seeking a judicial review.

The motion is the latest rearguard action by Christchurch to prevent the merger with Bournemouth and Poole.

MP Sir Christopher Chope said the government has now laid delegated legislation before Parliament to give the Future Dorset plan retrospective permission by overriding the existing relevant law - the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. Delegated legislation is not passed by an Act of Parliament but by a government minister.

If approved, this would pave the way for the making of the structural change order to implement the unitary plan.

Sir Christopher Chope said: “This is not just a procedural technicality. Some people might take the view that it is a constitutional outrage for Parliament to be asked to approve secondary legislation which amends an existing Act retrospectively, thereby enabling Christchurch Borough Council to be abolished against its will and that of its residents.”

He claimed the move was “highly irregular” and he intends to take the matter up with the relevant committees in the Commons and the Lords. “The bottom line is that the government does not have the legal authority to implement this proposal.”

He said government’s move and the timing of it, was clearly designed to short circuit public consultation.

The council motion calls on the government to withdraw the proposed regulations and calls on MPs and peers to vote them down.

A background briefing claims that because Mr Javid did not use his powers under the 2007 Act to invite proposals, Christchurch has not been able to bring forward its own proposal.

It’s understood that council leader David Flagg was not told of issue by council officers and that it was not raised at a recent meeting with QC Nathalie Lieven who has advised the council it is unlikely to succeed with a judicial review.