COUNCILLORS have been told to look at the "bigger picture" as plans move forwards for a shake-up of local government in Dorset.

West Dorset District Council's overview and scrutiny committee held a special meeting to discuss the authority's position on the future arrangements for local councils after considering feedback from a major public consultation exercise.

With around 65 per cent of residents in the district indicating a preference for the option, members voiced their support for an option '2b', which would see one unitary authority covering East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, and Weymouth and Portland with another for Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch.

The committee backed a recommendation that also acknowledged public response represented a "compelling case" to change the local government structures in the county.

It also agreed that a submission should be made to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government requesting that the existing nine county, district and unitary councils should be replaced by two new unitary councils.

The recommendation will now go before the council's executive committee today (Mon Jan 16) and full council before it is considered alongside the response of the other eight councils.

At the committee meeting Cllr David Rickard voiced concerns that the documents outlining the case for change focussed too much on achieving savings and did not make enough comment on making services more efficient.

Council chief executive Matt Prosser said: "The opportunities created by moving from nine councils to would help to meet future financial challenges whilst minimising the impact on services."

He added: "For me, this is about the future of local public services and not of any one council."

Cllr Ros Kayes also stressed the need to work with local town and parish councils to keep them informed of the impact of the changes as they progress.

A report considered by councillors stated that councils in Dorset combined had saved more than £142million since the 2010/11 financial year but still needed to find a further £82m by 2024/25.

West Dorset councillor and leader of Dorset County Council Robert Gould said: "We have got to look at the bigger picture.

"We are going to have opportunities to look in detail but this is about the big ambition for us as a council to grab this opportunity to shape something for ourselves.

"Otherwise this issue will come back again and somebody will do something to us that we won't like."

District council leader Anthony Alford added: "We do have a real opportunity here, we just need to take it and make it work."