CHRISTCHURCH council will meet for the final time next week, days before it is merged – against its will – with Bournemouth and Poole.

Thursday’s meeting will be the final opportunity for it to consider issues affecting the borough before the authority is abolished on March 31.

Despite opposing the Dorset local government reorganisation process at every stage, including a High Court legal challenge, Christchurch council will become part of the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council on April 1.

The full council meeting on March 28 will be the final public meeting held by the authority ahead of the merger.

The borough council had opposed local government reorganisation plans and a referendum in December 2017 found that 84 per cent of residents backed its position.

More than 21,000 people took part in the vote – a 53 per cent turnout.

Despite this, the government pushed ahead with the merger, prompting the council to launch a High Court challenge last year.

Its judicial review was refused in August – a decision which was not appealed after being told that there was “no prospect of success”.

Council leader, Cllr David Flagg, described the decision as “disappointing” but said it had taken the action to support the result of the referendum.

"The result of our local poll showed that 84 per cent of residents who took part did not support local government reorganisation and it was important we pursued every avenue possible to prevent the abolition of the council,” he said.

Since then the council has taken part in work to create the new unitary authority although plans for how the three boroughs’ council tax will be aligned have drawn heavy criticism in Christchurch.

In order not to have an increase which exceeds the limit by which a referendum would be required, council tax in Bournemouth and Poole will be increased gradually over the next six years to the same rate as Christchurch.

Concern had also been raised that the borough’s 700-year mayoralty could be lost, although a town council will now be formed which will take over responsibility for the position.