Plans for even closer ties between Dorset’s local authorities are being kept on the backburner in case it is decided to continue work after this year’s council mergers.

Leaders across the county recently met to discuss the proposals for a combined authority which would see the two new councils working collaboratively on ‘strategic’ issues such as transport.

Until the two new unitary authorities are up and running in April, plans for its establishment in Dorset have been temporarily shelved.

Combined authorities were introduced by the government in 2009 with the first set up in Greater Manchester in 2011.

Eight others have followed since then, including one for the west of England which covers Bristol, South Gloucestershire and parts of Somerset.

Plans for a Dorset combined authority have been under consideration but were put on hold as part of the local government reorganisation process to set up the two new unitary authorities.

The then-communities secretary, Sajid Javid, raised the issue again in February, asking what the councils’ intentions were when he approved the mergers of the nine existing bodies into two.

Bournemouth council leader, Cllr John Beesley, was part of a recent meeting held to discuss the issue and said that it was “part and parcel” of the local government reorganisation process.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s audit and governance committee, he said that the proposal had been “left with” the government until the mergers have been completed.

“It was part and parcel of our local government reorganisation proposals,” he said.

“It has been left with MHCLG (the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) for the time being, pending whether we wish to proceed.

“What we have decided to do across Dorset is to wait for LGR then to go back and discuss whether we want to proceed.”

Further discussions on the combined authority plans are expected to be held between senior council figures over the coming months.