A “clear majority” of county councillors in Dorset have backed proposals to reduce the number of councils in the county from nine to two.
More than half (54%) also backed there being one unitary council for the current county council area and one for Bournemouth and Poole.
A second option – for there to be one unitary council for the area of East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland and one for Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch – attracted 41% of the votes.
Other options were considered and rejected. These were for: a single pan-Dorset unitary authority for Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole; two other options for separate unitary authorities; and of making no change to the current structure.
Dorset County Council stressed that the vote was not a binding decision. “The council voted unanimously do more work on the preferred options and a report will be brought to its next meeting with a view to developing a full business case,” it said.
It also noted that there would be a public consultation on any plans, and that this was likely to be held during the summer of 2016.
Cllr Robert Gould, Leader of Dorset County Council, said: “We had a thorough debate in which nearly all county councillors had their say. It was encouraging to see agreement that we need to change and do things better for the people of Dorset.
“We now have a clear consensus around having one, new council serving the whole ‘shire’ Dorset area, with an enhanced role for town and parish councils to deliver local services and strengthen their identity.
“This would simplify the structure of local government for residents, save money and help our case for a really ambitious devolution deal for Dorset.”
Cllr Gould added: “We will continue to work with the other Dorset councils to develop a solution for the whole county. A key part of this will be consulting with local people to make sure everyone has a chance to be involved.
“This is a great opportunity for the whole of Dorset to create something that supports the future needs and ambitions of the county.”