CHRISTCHURCH council “did not act promptly” in launching a legal challenge against local government reorganisation in Dorset, a draft version of the High Court judgement says.

Sir Ross Cranston, who presided over the hearing in London last week, said that the council had had earlier opportunities to challenge plans to merge authorities.

Announced on Tuesday, his judgement found that the council’s claim that the secretary of state had acted beyond his powers by allowing the process to go ahead was not justified.

Eight of the county’s nine councils support plans to merge into two unitary authorities however Christchurch council has opposed the proposals with a referendum of the borough’s residents finding that 84 per cent were against joining with Bournemouth and Poole.

On May 21 it lodged a judicial review challenging the legality of the secretary of state’s actions to go ahead with the mergers saying that he did not have power under the 2016 Cities and Local Government Devolution Act to do so.

The challenge went to the High Court in London last week, however Sir Ross dismissed the council’s case and criticised the speed at which the council put forward its case.

He said that there was “no compelling reason” for determining that the act did not allow the secretary of state to progress the scheme and that issues could have been raised at an earlier stage.

“In my view, this claim has not been brought promptly,” he added, saying that, in his view, “time had already start to run” when the council first saw the draft regulations in January.

“Promptness in this case was of obvious importance when the steps to prepare for reorganisation have been continuing during 2017 and have involved the expenditure of considerable time, effort and public moneys,” he said.

“If objection had been raised earlier, steps could have been taken to avoid any potential issue.”

The council is considering whether to appeal the decision with borough mayor Cllr Lesley Dedman saying there were “points of law” which it could argue.

It has asked the judge for permission to appeal the judgement through the Court of Appeal.

Should the request be refused, the council will have until Tuesday, August 21 to put its own case to the court.


Cllr Ray Nottage, chairman of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole shadow authority, said: “Any appeal would be a further waste of council tax payers’ money.

“What’s much more important is for all of us to get behind working for the new council to ensure that those areas of vital importance to our residents like adult social are in place by April.

“We would be failing in our duty if we did not get this sorted.

“We have the spectre of Northampton above us and probably 10 other councils in a similar position and we don’t want to join them.

“That’s why we are doing what we are doing.”

Tens of thousands of pounds has been spent by the council on the judicial review and the council is also expecting to have to pay the government’s costs.