|Our thanks to those of you that attended our public meeting – we nearly filled the hall!
Following on from the news that the Bournemouth-Poole Hospital merger has been forbidden by the Competition Commission we asked Richard Renault, a Director of the Bournemouth Trust, to address our meeting and we are grateful to him for coming along at such short notice. It seems that the proposed merger has suffered from being the first of its type and the relative importance of local “competition” has not been resolved.
If you’re somewhat confused by the whole thing and would like to better understand this concept of “competition” go to www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “Local NHS Facilities” and then “The New NHS”. There you will find an animation that will explain it all to you!
Richard confirmed that the aborted merger will not affect plans for the development of Christchurch Hospital. From what he said about the future sharing of services and functions between the hospitals, one might say that if something “looks like a merger and feels like a merger, then probably ......” But that’s just our interpretation.
You can read the official Bournemouth-Poole joint statement at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”
Martyn Underhill – Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner
Martyn spoke at some length about his many aspirations, plans and multiple tasks. When we first met him earlier this year we gained no feel for what was high priority for him and what lower or how his resources matched up to his workload. We are still none the wiser.
He reported that crime levels in Dorset have fallen, with both burglary and anti-social behaviour recording large drops. The squeeze by Central Government on all forms of local spending has affected the police with an overall reduction of 26% required by March 2016. The key to survival lies in adopting new working practices and Martyn is hoping to obtain money from the new Innovation Fund so that, for example, officers can use laptops rather than pieces of paper.
Dorset Police are holding a public consultation on availability at Christchurch Police Station Front Desk – they want to reduce the opening hours. You can participate in the survey by going to www.wcresidents.co.uk and clicking on “latest updates”
Cost Cutting at DCC
We took a trip to Dorchester to find out how the Government funding cuts are affecting DCC
Whilst the overall 2013-14 budgetary position looks reasonable (currently projecting a financially insignificant over-spend) the underlying position leaves no room for complacency with over-spend in the demand-led activities: Adult and Community Services £2.9 million; Children’s Services £2.8 million; Environment £800 thousand.
Projecting this position into the future based upon the latest understanding of such capricious variables as Central Government actions indicates that further savings will be required amounting to approximately: £12 million in 2014-15; £13 million in 2015-16; £20 million in 2016-17.
The new system that allows local authorities to retain business rates is now operational but it is too soon to make other than cautious predictions based upon such limited experience. This position will change over time.
Turning off the street lights after midnight has produced savings of £300 thousand a year which should increase to £350 thousand a year. The Police say that there has not been a statistically significant increase in crime associated with this action.
The outstanding Icelandic money continues to reduce with over £20 million now recouped
It is clear that over the last two years the DCC managerial attack upon levels of controllable expenditure has achieved results by primarily tackling obvious areas of waste and poor practice. However, there is a limit to such opportunities and future initiatives are going to involve new methods of approach. This is intrinsically more complex and carries a higher risk factor.
Paying for Bus Passes
The reduction required in the subsidy paid to bus operators remains at £800 thousand. Central Government will not allow a contribution to be claimed from pensioners using their bus passes (asking them to pay say 50% of the standard fare). This means that savings must be made on such things as bus routes that support small outlying communities, in some cases stopping them altogether. (In such areas pensioners will thus have bus passes that they can’t use because there is no bus. No doubt this makes sense to somebody.)
DCC is working on a new system of calculating the bus subsidy that incentivises the bus company to run services that people can sensibly use.
Confirmation of the new local services should now come from the December DCC Cabinet Meeting. Prior to that meeting Councillor Sue Spittle is organising a petition. You can download a form to fill in at www.wcresidents.co.uk If your neighbour doesn’t use a computer you could perhaps ask them to sign the form as well. Completed forms must be returned to Sue by Sunday 24th November
A Radical Approach
Finally, DCC is looking to completely rationalise its Property Portfolio. It already has a plan to reduce its property holding by 25% by end 2014-15 and this programme is currently on schedule. However a more radical approach is now called for that will take money out of building running costs and make those funds available for other purposes.
DCC currently owns some 400 properties in 20 principal locations. Conceptually DCC needs no more than 2 or 3 buildings in each of 13 to 15 locations – say around 35 properties in total (this all excludes schools, of course). This massive reduction could be achieved by using hub offices based in locations such as Christchurch and Wimborne. These hubs would be supported by four core centres located in say Blandford, Bridport, Dorchester and Ferndown and would rely heavily upon IT support.
This approach assumes that: DCC will in future commission some services rather than provide them internally; buildings will be multi-purpose and occupied by other public sector service providers in addition to DCC; buildings need not be owned by DCC.
The overall objective is to place DCC in the heart of the communities that it serves whilst as a consequential benefit saving large sums of money on property maintenance. If they succeed in achieving that it will be a significant step forward.
You can read a full account of our meeting at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on ACRA (home). Our thanks go to Councillor Robert Gould for making time to meet with us.
School Places In Christchurch
The future education needs of Dorset in general and Christchurch in particular are under review. We asked CBC Executive Director Dave Barnes for the local view. He told us:
We are aware that there is demand for school places in certain parts of the Borough and equally that some schools are currently undersubscribed.
The discussions we have held with County Officers throughout the Core Strategy process is that there is not a need to build a new school but there is a need to be able to cater for increased demand. The information we have formally received on this point is that new provision could be accommodated by extensions to existing schools rather than a new school.
Dave has confirmed to us that "extensions" does not mean port-a-cabins in the playground
When Do They Empty Our Bins
If you need a schedule of when Dorset Waste Partnership will empty your bin or collect your recycling you can download your waste collection calendar at:
Be sure to look at the correct one for you – it can be a bit confusing!