A LANDMARK meeting has been held ahead of a potential shake-up of local government in Dorset which could see the number of councils dramatically reduced to just two authorities.

Leaders and councillors from six of the nine Dorset councils met to begin cross-council discussions on the future of council services.

The Dorset Area Joint Committee (DACJ) is made up of representatives from Dorset County Council, East Dorset District Council, North Dorset District Council, Purbeck District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

Of the six councils that are represented on the committee, two of them, East Dorset District Council and Purbeck District Council, decided earlier this year not to support the ‘Future Dorset’ proposal which seeks to reduce the nine current councils in Dorset to two unitary authorities.

While they maintain they are not supportive of ‘Future Dorset’, they have agreed that having a place on this joint committee enables them to fully participate in discussions about the future of public services in Dorset.

While all of Dorset’s councils await a decision from central Government on ’Future Dorset’, this joint committee will look to find solutions to the shared challenge that all councils face: to continue to deliver valued public services against a background of declining resources.

During the meeting Cllr Rebecca Knox, Leader of Dorset County Council was elected as chairman of the committee, with Cllr Anthony Alford, Leader of West Dorset District Council, elected as vice-chairman.

After the meeting Cllr Knox said: “Throughout the meeting, I was pleased to see the spirit of joint working from everyone. During our discussions and workshops we have identified some unique and exciting opportunities which I look forward to exploring at future meetings.

“This is an ambitious programme which will require much hard work and commitment from members but if we work together, there is the possibility that we could create some really positive changes which could benefit our residents, partners and businesses of Dorset.”

Prior to this first formal meeting taking place, members of the committee met during the summer and agreed the areas of greatest importance that their collaborative work will be focussed on.

Among the agenda items the committee discussed were plans to develop collaborative working arrangements and the future work of the committee.