THE abolition of Dorset’s councils could receive final approval from MPs as early as next week.

After a three hour committee hearing on Wednesday in which the order was backed by all the county’s representatives except Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope, there will be no further debate in the House of Commons.

Mid Dorset and North Poole MP Michael Tomlinson said the order will pass into law when moved by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire – possibly as early as Monday – unless there is an objection, in which case a vote will be held.

His Bournemouth West colleague Conor Burns MP was more cautious, saying the order has first to go before the House of Lords, but he expects a move “very soon”.

Mr Tomlinson said: “It was the longest debate in a legislative committee I have ever sat in, and I was pleased that it was constructive. We paid tribute to the hard work my neighbour Chris Chope has put into this.

“My view is that now is the time to move forward. My firm belief is that this change will help us in bidding for infrastructure, and give us a greater voice.

“I sincerely hope there will not be an objection, but I expect it to pass at the vote in any case.”

Should the order pass the path will be almost clear for the two replacement unitary councils to be set up in April next year. A potential hurdle is the judicial review bid launched by Christchurch council earlier this month, however the Government says the claims in the borough’s ‘letter before action’ legal challenge are “absurd” and “without merit”.

Mr Brokenshire’s legal letter in response to the council’s bid was received by the borough on Tuesday and has now been seen by the Echo.

The letter reveals that the council claims the Secretary of State is not lawfully able to use a statutory instrument to enact the plan without having first “invited” Dorset’s councils to propose it.

In response, 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. This is an absurd intention to impute to Parliament.”

The letter goes on to state that Mr Brokenshire considers the claim “not arguable”, and will not withdraw the draft regulations currently going through Parliament.

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 justifying the delay before the review bid was submitted. The letter states that the process has been “under way now for a very considerable time” and the council “failed to act promptly”.