|Thanks to everybody who came along to our public meeting. Another full house heard some interesting presentations from representatives of the airport, our local police, and local hospital management.
Note to new readers
The newsletter is supported by our website. Most topics covered are ongoing sagas that have an interesting history. Click on www.wcresidents.co.uk and then on “newsletters” to find an index that will guide you to previous episodes – this is true of nearly every topic covered in this issue. There is also a full site index.
Last month the newsletter was rather dominated by the shock news of the plans to merge Christchurch with Bournemouth. We’ll bring you up to date on that in a moment but first some important developments that we had to hold over.
The Police and Dorset Alert System
Regular readers will know that we have been pushing Dorset Police to make this system, funded by your money, work properly. We asked for a progress report from the police on bringing the Dorset Alert system into full and proper use:
After my staffing issues since inheriting control of the system in April, I’ve finally got a colleague working full-time on Dorset Alert who started only this month (October). She’s been focusing on weeding out the system to remove duplicates and no-longer-active contacts, which she’s got down from around 2,000 to fewer than 800 now. This work will be complete very soon.
Once the system is shipshape administratively and the database is in good order, we’ll move on to improve the quality of messages and provide more consistency.
Around this time would be a good opportunity for the first User Group – we’d be able to share how we’ve improved the data, explain how the new groups and subjects will work, and remind people how they can encourage more sign-ups for the improved system. A meeting of both our internal police users, external partners and message recipients will also help further clarify what kind of messages are most useful, the volume people expect, and the style they’d prefer (for example, quick and informal versus more structured, formal messages). This will all inform the internal guidelines we produce.
My colleague will be creating a list of people to invite to these User Groups and be in touch with you when a date is set. I’m also still exploring opening up the administrative functions for trusted individuals locally, which the system has the ability to do and you kindly offered to assist for Christchurch, but we need to make the database changes first and ensure our own colleagues are using it correctly first.
This represents some welcome progress.
Dorset Waste Partnership – Report from Cllr. Margaret Phipps
The Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP) has a high financial turnover, with annual budgets of over £30 million, and I thought that you should have a realistic report of the current situation. This means that there are a lot of figures in this report. I attended a DWP Joint Committee Meeting on 27th October 2015 specifically about financial matters and summarise here a few of the items discussed. The full agenda and reports can be found on www.dorsetforyou.com website. If anyone has specific queries, please contact me.
Earlier this year an over spend of £911k was predicted on the 2015/16 budget of £32.5m. This risk has now been reduced to £517k and a lot of work is underway to try to reduce it further. Christchurch Council (CBC) pays 3.91% of the DWP’s overall expenditure, so the £517k over spend would mean an increase in CBC’s contribution of only £20.2k.
There are some specific items that have caused the risk of overspend, such as: a reduction in the value of recycled materials; vehicle hire costs; a shortfall of income arising from the collection of garden waste; redundancy costs; and other items. These have been partly offset by savings in interest, fuel costs and a lower than expected Retail Price Index.
The DWP’s five year Financial Plan predicts the cost of providing the DWP services as rising from £166 per household in 2016/17 to £174 per household by 2020/21, which compares favourably with data from Somerset (£166 in 2014/15), and Shropshire (£182 in 2014/15). The total overall DWP costs are thus projected to be £34.2m in 2016/17, increasing to £36.6m in 2020/21.
It is very interesting to note, that despite the well documented budget overspend, since the DWP was created in 2011, Christchurch Council has saved £222k in revenue and £261k in capital costs, compared to the Council’s index linked costs of the services before joining the Partnership in 2011. The service is certainly providing value for money for residents.
The kerbside recycling service is now fully rolled out across Dorset, with the last phase starting in the west of West Dorset in October 2015. The new service has been well received by residents and has significantly increased our recycling rate, reduced landfilled waste and improved customer satisfaction. In 2014/15 the CBC recycling rate was 59.9% (compared to 34% in 2011/12); the residual waste per household was 287kg (compared to 456 kg in 2011/12); and a doorstep survey of 11,700 residents in Christchurch/East Dorset/North Dorset in April-August 2014 showed 94.7% of residents were very/fairly satisfied with the new collection service.
The lessons learnt from the later roll-out of the new collection service in the Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth areas show that there is potential to save costs by rationalising the collection rounds in Christchurch, East and North Dorset (which received the new service first). Work on this will start early in 2016 and it is likely that more efficient collection rounds will be implemented in the late summer of 2016. This will not affect the materials collected but may result in the day of collection changing for some residents.
Progress on the A338 Roadworks
You can find a progress report on the work carried out in October on the scheme blog: http://news.dorsetforyou.com/bournemouth-spur-road/2015/11/06/progress-report/
Plans for Town Centre
CBC have produced an interesting document full of pretty pictures which you can read at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”. Whether or not it addresses the real issues associated with our town centre we’ll leave you to decide.
Also, there is reportedly significant progress on getting agreement on sale and development between the owners of the different parts of the key site at the junction of Bargates and Barrack Road. Landowners Dorset County Council, Christchurch Borough Council, Dorset Police and Crime Commission and the Hospital of St Mary Magdalene Trust made the decision to select Aster Homes after a detailed tender process.
Dorset Soldiers On
We met with the leader of DCC, Councillor Robert Gould. You can find a full report on that meeting by clicking on www.wcresidents.co.uk and then click on “latest changes”
The year 2014-154 saw a DCC overspend of £3.1 million funded by a transfer from reserves. As at September 2015 DCC still need to find further estimated savings of £5.6 million in year 2015-16 (down from an estimated £15 million in April 2015) which means a need for a combined total further saving of £8.7 million. The option of further transfers from reserve is not viable as it would reduce the general reserve to an unacceptable level
The prime causes of overspend are £2.9 million in Children’s Services (mainly children in care) and £2.3 million in Adult and Community Services (mainly demand for residential care in an aging population). When we say CBC is in the black we should never forget that DCC is carrying these costs some of which are attributable to Christchurch.
Looking further ahead, the projected budgetary overspends for 2016 to 2019 inclusive are £35 million (£13 million 2016-17, £11 million in each of the following two years). Causes for concern include a rise in employers National Insurance contributions of £2 million for non-school staff and the implementation of the National Living Wage. Hopefully offsetting that are such things as the business rare retention scheme and the new homes bonus scheme.
Gritting Dorset’s Roads
Dorset Highways winter weather team comprises 28 drivers with 26 gritters to cover the 650 miles of the gritting network and over 10,000 tonnes of salt in stock. The winter weather service runs from October to the end of March with 25 per cent of the county council roads covered by the 22 main gritting routes. These include primary A and B roads, links to hospitals and larger communities, roads to larger schools and key bus routes. Find out more at:
You can stay safe by planning journeys so that, wherever possible, you travel on treated roads.
Merging Christchurch with Bournemouth, East Dorset and Poole
Our thanks go to all of you who contacted us or posted direct to the ACRA blog. Our approach to this development received overwhelming support.
The commonest question we were asked was: why? What is driving this sudden and somewhat precipitate rush into the arms of Bournemouth? We have tried to answer that question. The following analysis is based upon discussions with representatives of CBC, DCC, EDDC, and others.
This has become a major issue following the election of a Conservative Central Government combined with the Conservatives taking overall control of Bournemouth, Poole and all of Dorset’s councils except Weymouth and Portland. Since then Central Government have made it clear that they wish in future to deal only with “large” authorities. Large is undefined but Dorset has four councils in the smallest twenty measured by size of electorate: Purbeck; Christchurch; Weymouth; and North Dorset. None of the others are particularly large.
This is economically unsustainable whilst, in addition, both Poole and Bournemouth are each too small to survive as Unitary Authorities in the current political and economic climate. One doesn’t have to think much further than the cost of implementing and maintaining the complex computer systems that will be required to support e-commerce in Local Government to see that it’s becoming a business model that will require large and expensive resources to support it
The inherent difficulty of trying to manage a project that embraces nine different authorities has led to a rate of progress and level of commitment that for some is unsatisfactory. In particular Poole needs to see faster progress and they are supported in that by Bournemouth. The two Unitary Authorities also believe that they, East Dorset and Christchurch together represent the financial muscle of Dorset as a whole. Christchurch may be small but it contains within its bounds Bournemouth Airport and the associated industrial estate. East Dorset boasts the Ferndown Industrial Estate. The two authorities are managed by a team of officers who have direct, recent, experience of successfully merging two disparate administrations into a single coherent one. These are attractive and perhaps underutilised assets.
Inevitably perhaps, Poole, Bournemouth, East Dorset and Christchurch began to explore ways of moving ahead on a faster track. From these discussions emerged the idea of the four of them forming a new Unitary Authority to the initial exclusion of the remaining five councils. No business case has yet been developed and it is not clear how any gains in productivity might compare with gains potentially available under other possible schemes, such as the Combined Authority. Such considerations are, however, regarded as subsidiary to speed of movement and a realignment of political power away from the west of Dorset towards the east of the county.
One possible weakness of the scheme to form a new Unitary Authority is that the remaining rump of Dorset might not be a viable economic entity and might not meet Central Government’s definition of “large”. Also, a great many services are already functioning to a greater or lesser degree on a pan-Dorset basis and in particular: the provision of broadband; education; health; fire; and the police. To try to split such services would be a logistical nightmare.
However, it is also possible that a new Unitary Authority made up of all nine existing councils could be even more efficient than the four-council one currently proposed. It is not known at what scale size begins to detract from efficiency but such a council would still be smaller than Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Surrey and Kent for example.
Therein may be found the bones of an overall strategic plan under which the proposed new Unitary is formed and the remaining five councils are then subsequently merged in. Such an incremental plan would go a long way to de-risking the overall project, would over time remove the Dorset Rump problem and significantly would meet Whitehall’s requirements. A tactician might suggest that DCC would be well advised to champion such a cause now as a way of regaining the political initiative.
As ever, if you want to comment on our analysis please contact us direct by replying to this e-mail or go to the ACRA blog by clicking on www.wcresidents.co.uk and using the link on the front page. We and your Councillors need to hear your opinions.
Budget airline Flybe which resumed flights from Bournemouth Airport in March has announced it is to pull out of the Airport only six months after restarting flights.
This is a huge blow for the airport so soon after losing the Royal Mail contract. Flybehelped it rebuild passenger numbers above 750,000. Now it will fall back once again to a fraction of the business that was anticipated when it invested in the new terminal.
A report from Councillor Margaret Phipps on this together with a BIA Monitoring report on the airport will appear on the website www.wcresidents.co.uk shortly
New School at Marsh Lane
The Planning Application for the new school has been submitted, and the next step is for it to be loaded onto 'Dorset For You', advertised in the local press, and the green plastic-coated notices put up onto lampposts.
We don't know the timetable for this, but our contact details are with the Planning Team and they will be contacting us to pass on the reference details of the Application, how and where it can be viewed, and the timetable for consultation on its contents. We will put the information on the website as soon as we have it
At the Hall on the Hill there’s a concert on Sunday 22nd November and a children’s Christmas Party on Sunday 6th December. Full details at www.hallonthehill.org.uk