VOTERS across Dorset will head to the polls today to choose who they want to represent them on the county’s two new unitary authorities.

Hundreds of candidates will be listed on ballot papers for the wards in the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and Dorset council areas.

A reduction in the number of councillors representing the county’s residents has increased competition for the councils’ 158 seats.

In the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council area, Conservative councillors had held the majority of seats on the three preceding borough councils before they were all merged together.

But candidates have warned that the party’s nominees could be harmed at the ballot box because of its national failure to resolve Brexit issues.

In Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, more than 300,000 people are registered to vote today with 39,000 opting to take part in the elections by post.

Concerns have been raised that the late delivery of thousands of postal vote ‘packs’, which were delayed by issues with printers, could also affect outcomes.

Graham Farrant, the council’s chief executive, described the elections as “a significant and historic event”.

“The council is responsible for hundreds of services that affect our everyday lives from emptying bins and maintaining our roads and beautiful open spaces to caring for our most vulnerable in our society,” he said.

“We encourage everyone to exercise their democratic right to have their say on who they want to run their local services.”

As well as voting for who they want to represent them at the top level of local government, many people will also be able to select parish councillors.

People living in the area covered by Christchurch Town Council and those in parts of Highcliffe and Walkford will vote for their parish councillors.

Parish and town councils in the Dorset Council area will also be voted on today.

Polling stations will open at 7am before closing at 10pm.

Most votes will be counted on Friday, although parishes in the Dorset Council area will be left until Saturday.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will hold its count at the BIC in Bournemouth.

  • Follow coverage of Friday’s counts live at For full analysis, see Saturday’s Daily Echo, pages 1-7.