A VOTE for a change in the way West Dorset District Council is run has been hailed as a victory for "the will of the people".

A referendum was triggered after the Public First campaign group gathered more than 6,000 signatures calling for a change from the council's cabinet style system of governance to a committee based system.

More than 25,000 people cast their votes at the ballot box last week with 64 per cent of them backing the change of system.

A total of 16,534 voters were in favour of the committee system with 8,811 supporting the cabinet approach.

The turnout figure was 32.06 per cent.

Following the referendum result, secretary of the Public First Group John Grantham addressed those gathered at the council's South Walks House offices for the count and thanked those who had "helped bring democracy to west Dorset".

He also claimed that the group had urged the council to voluntarily adopt the committee system without the need for the referendum at a cost of £95,000 to the taxpayer.

Mr Grantham said: "They must have thought they could still win a referendum.

"With respect, today's result shows how out of touch they are with the people they are there to serve."

Mr Grantham said the vote had succeeded in "sweeping away the failed cabinet system", adding: "The council has to serve the public's needs and make the best use of public funds.

"We trust that West Dorset District Council has finally heard the will of the people and will truly engage with us in greater democracy."

The council's leader Anthony Alford said: "Throughout this process one of the things I have been keen to ensure is that we do things to observe the law correctly. 

"I'm very glad to say I have the utmost confidence we have proceeded with this referendum on the basis that confirms with the law and procedures and have gone through the referendum process very clearly and well."

Cllr Alford said that the council had already agreed a structure for the new committee based system and it is expected to be implemented in May next year.