CHRISTCHURCH council will push against new council tax proposals now it has declined to continue opposing the merger, the mayor says.

The borough announced yesterday it would not appeal against the refusal of its judicial review.

The decision means there is now no legal barrier to local government reorganisation (LGR) in progress, and the abolition of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils in favour of a new conurbation unitary can go ahead next April.

Christchurch mayor Councillor Lesley Dedman said: "We have throughout been representing the views of our residents on the shadow unitary council and will continue to do so.

"One thing which seems to have been lost in all this, one of the main bones of contention, is that Christchurch residents will be paying more council tax than those in Bournemouth and Poole for the same level of service.

"We will continue to challenge this.”

The legal challenge was criticised by several members of the council who support LGR as a waste of taxpayers’ money, although its advocates argued they were representing the views of residents as expressed in last year’s local poll, which found 84 per cent of Christchurch residents who voted were opposed to the merger. The review is expected to cost Christchurch around £100,000 as the borough was ordered to pay the Government’s costs.

A central criticism of the review bid, levelled by the judge, was that it had not been submitted promptly.

Cllr Dedman said members had followed the advice of its officers on the timing of the challenge.

“If anyone can be criticised for this it is not the leader and deputy leader,” she said.

Her fellow Christchurch councillor Trevor Watts, who backs LGR, said the council had at last come to terms with the "need for change".

“The Government wanted us to go this route years ago, we can’t sustain public expenditure as it is without reorganisation,” he said.

“We will have more representation, 10 councillors rather than five county councillors now.

“We need change, let’s give it a go, we have nothing to lose.”

A statement issued by Dorset's other eight councils said: "We very much look forward to working with all Christchurch councillors through the shadow authority and shadow executive committee, now that Christchurch council has made the decision not to seek leave to appeal the result of the recent Judicial Review.

"Instead, members have chosen to accept that Dorset’s nine councils will cease to exist next April, and be replaced by two new unitary authorities, a decision which we welcome.

"A huge amount of work has already been undertaken, and we are making excellent progress towards creating the two new councils.

"We are very pleased that we can now all put this matter behind us, and we can look forward to working together to create the best new local councils we can, to protect public services as much as possible, and to secure future growth and prosperity for our areas."

Yesterday, Christchurch council leader Cllr David Flagg said members had taken legal advice and consulted officers on their next step after being refused permission to go to the Court of Appeal by the same judge who turned down their challenge.

While the council had the opportunity to approach the court itself before August 21, the borough was now, Cllr Flagg said, committed to the LGR process.

“In light of the decision we feel that the best way for us to proceed is to focus our work on getting the best for our residents as we move towards local government reorganisation,” he said.

“Whilst we are of course extremely disappointed with the decision of the judge, the council has fought to represent the wishes of our residents throughout this process.

“Having pursued every avenue available to us we must now accept that the council will be abolished next year. We apologise that we were not successful in keeping Christchurch independent and thank all the residents who supported us in our attempts.”