Plans for changes to local government in Dorset are on track.

But those behind the massive switch over to two new unitary councils say they will need to keep a careful eye on costs and efficiency savings.

A joint committee of all nine Dorset councils heard this week that only a small proportion of the action plans are behind schedule with programme director Keith Cheeseman promising that his team will catch up.

Weymouth and Portland borough council leader Jeff Cant, who is overseeing some of the financial arrangements, told the Dorset Joint Committee in Dorchester on Tuesday: “We need to keep a careful eye on savings and efficiencies to get us to the position we expect to be.

“We need to focus very much on efficiencies – the same services for less cost and I’m hopeful we will be able to achieve that.”

The committee heard that budgets for the change, due to take place in April 2019, are as projected although around £2 million of the money earmarked for the change process will now be spent in the coming months, rather than towards the end of the programme.

Purbeck chief executive, Steve Mackenzie, who is leading the officer finance team, told councillors that the programme made a number of assumptions which have yet to be finally agreed. These include all the existing council areas paying the same level of council tax to the new Dorset Council from next April, rather than gradually harmonising the rate over several years. He said that without the harmonisation of rates from the start of the new council its ‘budget gap’ could grow to £6million.

It is believed that over £10m each year can be achieved by reorganisation. Price Waterhouse Coopers believe the savings could be up to £33m per annum.

Mr Mackenzie said that the estimated cost of bringing the two new unitary councils into existence was £25million, roughly half for each new council.

+ A Structural Change Order, which will legally bring the new councils into being, are currently before Parliament with financial and other relatively minor arrangements to follow.

Programme Director Steve Cheesman told councillors that despite the Christchurch legal challenge work was continuing as if nothing had happened because to stop and wait would cause delays and add to the overall cost.

It is expected that the financial orders will be negotiated over the next six weeks between local officials and a team of senior civil servants.

Changes to existing council ward boundaries will also be examined with a Boundary Commission official review expected to start on July 3, lasting for eight weeks.