CLAIMS made in a legal challenge to the Dorset council merger plan are “absurd” and “without merit”, according to the Government.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire’s legal letter in response to Christchurch council’s bid via a ‘letter before action’ for a judicial review, was received by the borough on Tuesday and has now been seen by the Echo.

It mounts a robust defence of the process.

The letter reveals that Christchurch council claims the Secretary of State is not lawfully able to use a statutory instrument to approve the plan without having first “invited” Dorset’s councils to put forward the proposal.

Bournemouth Echo:

The letter states: “On the analysis put forward in the letter before action, s15 could not apply to particular cases at all – merely to hypothetical future proposals which have not yet been made.

Bournemouth Echo:

“This is an absurd intention to impute to Parliament.”

It adds: “The mere fact that the word ‘retrospectively’ is not also used is, contrary to the argument made in the letter before action, of no significance.”

Bournemouth Echo:

The letter goes on to state that Mr Brokenshire (pictured) considers the claim “not arguable”, and will not withdraw the draft regulations currently going through Parliament as requested by the council – calling the request “constitutionally inappropriate”.

Bournemouth Echo:

Having received the response Christchurch council will now have to decide whether to proceed with its bid for a judicial review, potentially incurring substantial legal costs. If it does, the decision on whether a review goes ahead will be made in the courts.

A further hurdle the borough faces is the delay between the merger decision being made and the review bid being submitted.

The letter states that the merger process has been “under way now for a very considerable time”, that “time is of the essence” and the council “failed to act promptly” in making its bid.

Bournemouth Echo:

“A letter before action was not received until May 1, being nine weeks after the implementation decision.”