BY the end of this week people living in parts of Christchurch will know who is to represent them at parish level.

New councils have been formed in a bid to retain a “local voice” in matters including planning following the abolition of the borough council earlier this year.

Elections for both Christchurch town and Highcliffe and Walkford neighbourhood councils will take place at the same time as voting for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

Christchurch councillors took the decision to the two councils last year after the decision was made to merge with Bournemouth and Poole councils.

It was felt that the move would help retain a level of local government more closely linked with the public while it could also take on the now-abolished council’s historic functions, including the mayoralty.

But Christchurch mayor, town council candidate and member of the committee which worked to set up the new councils, Cllr Lesley Dedman said the necessity for their formation went beyond traditions.

She said that although she had initially opposed the decision to form the councils in favour of a "strong borough council", the forced merger with Bournemouth and Poole had changed her view.

“One of the main reasons for setting up the new councils was to give a local voice in planning,” Cllr Dedman said.

“Of course the mayoralty is very important in Christchurch but these councils will be a statutory consultee in planning meaning the unitary authority will be forced to listen to local views.

“They will also be able to give a much more instant response to issues raised by the public.

“Rather than having to wait for someone to come around on a monthly visit they will be able to send someone out straight away.”

Earlier this month, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council chief executive Graham Farrant said he was “surprised” at the decision to set the two new councils up before the unitary authority was up and running.

However, he said all of the councils would work closely together.

Elections for the first councillors to the two councils will take place at the same time as voting for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council on Thursday.

Votes will be counted the following day.

Clerks have already been appointed and begun work on establishing the two new bodies.

Thirty-three people have put themselves forward as candidates for the town council, with only 19 seats available.

Only one ward of Highcliffe and Walkford Neighbourhood Council will see elections this week, with the others having fewer candidates than seats.

Both will be funded through an additional council tax precept charged of people living in each area.

Just under £10-a-year extra will be added to bills this year, rising to more than £27 in 2020.