|It’s Christmas so the newsletter is a little earlier than usual and the fraudsters have increased their activity. Please tell any vulnerable relatives about the following selection, all taken from recent criminal activity in and around Christchurch:
Fake Police Officers
There has been a recent series of incidents whereby fraudsters either phone or arrive unannounced at the home of elderly residents claiming to be police officers.
The fake officers claim that they are investigating a fraud of which they believe the elderly person is a victim. The fake officers will then request the bank cards and personal identification numbers (PIN) of the victim and claim these are needed for investigation purposes. If the first contact was made by a phone call, the fake officers will tell the victim that someone will be over to collect the evidence. In one case the victim was instructed to attend their local bank and withdraw all of their money from their account. The fake officer was left alone in the victim’s house whilst the victim carried out the instructions.
Council Tax Fraud
- The Police will never ask for your PIN or passwords. Do not give this information to anyone.
- The Police will never request that you withdraw/transfer any money to them.
- Before letting anyone into your home who claims to be from any law enforcement agency, ask to see their identity card and check it by calling 101.
- Tell them they can attend at a pre-arranged time when a family member or friend can also be present.
- If you receive a phone call from a police officer, ask for their name and force and tell them you will call them back. Wait a few minutes and then use 101 to call them back through their force’s switchboard and verify their identity.
Fraudsters have been phoning victims telling them that they have been placed in the wrong council tax bracket for a number of years and are entitled to a rebate. They normally say that this rebate should be worth about £7,000.
Once the victim is convinced, the fraudster tells them that in order to receive the rebate they will need to pay an administration fee in advance. The payment they ask for can be up to £350. The victim makes the payment, but then is no longer able to make contact with the person they spoke to on the phone. When they phone their council about the rebate, the council confirms that they know nothing about it.
- Your local council won’t ever phone out-of-the-blue to discuss a council tax rebate. If you receive a call of this nature, put the phone down straight away.
- No legitimate organisation will ask you to pay an advanced fee in order to receive money, so never give them your card details.
- If you think you have been a victim of fraud, hang up the phone and wait five minutes to clear the line as fraudsters sometimes keep the line open. Then call your bank or card issuer to report the fraud. Where it is possible use a different phone line to make the phone call.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has been alerted to a pension scam whereby cold callers target members of the public aged 50 to 60 to release and transfer their pension early. Suspected firms who advertise and arrange pensions are offering investments in alternative commodities such as hotel developments or property in Cape Verde, and operate as unregulated collective investment schemes.
Often, the cold calling ‘pension companies’ involved are neither regulated nor qualified to give financial advice and classify themselves as a ‘trustee’, ‘consultant’ or an ‘independent advisor’ and offer exceptionally high return rates for investors. Ensure that you request that the risks and growth rates are explained and that you fully understand them before transferring your pension. Remember that if the offer seems too good to be true, then it generally is.
Check whether the pension arrangement company is registered with the FCA. Registered companies can be checked using the FCA register online at: https://register.fca.org.uk/
Further advice can be found at:
Fraudsters have set up a website advertising various electrical goods and domestic appliances. These goods are advertised at below market value and do not exist. The fraudsters will request your card details via the website. However you will then receive an email stating the payment failed and you must pay via bank transfer.
Payments made via bank transfer are not protected should you not received the goods purchased. Always try to make payment via PayPal or credit card - where you have some protection should you not receive the product purchased.
The fraudsters use the widely recognised Trusted Shop Trustmark. They have not in fact been certified by Trusted Shops and therefore you are not covered by their money-back guarantee.
If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud you can report it online http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by telephone 0300 123 2040.
- Check the Trusted Shops Facebook page where warnings about websites using their Trustmark are published. If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of a Trustmark then you can contact Trusted Shops on 0203 364 5906 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. They will confirm whether they have certified that website.
- Conduct a search on the website which will identify when the website has been created and be wary of newly formed ones. You can conduct this search using https://who.is/.
- Carry out online research in relation to the website, company name and the business address provided to identify any poor feedback or possible irregularities.
Christmas and New Year Waste Collection Dates
Go to www.dorsetforyou.com/recycle to check arrangements over the holiday period
Marsh Lane School: Planning Application 8/15/0665
Details of the above application are available on-line at:
Select 'Documents' tab about half way down the page on the right hand side to access all the documents which make up the application plus any responses. The Planning Officer dealing with this application is Stephen Cornwell 01305 225 767.
WCRA has been in touch with DCC and secured an extension of the deadline for submissions to 4th January 2016. You can read our response to the plan at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”
Christchurch Relief Road
CBC has formally requested DCC to allocate the sum of £23,000, to fund a report on the feasibility of building a Christchurch Relief Road. If the business case stacks up then other potential funding sources, including approaches to the Local Enterprise Partnership and direct to the Treasury, will be explored. You can read the request for a feasibility study at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”. There will be more on this in 2016 we think.
Details of the Annual Monitoring Report and latest Airport Consultative Committee Minutes are at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”.
Local Government Reorganisation
Surely you didn’t think we’d go a whole month and not mention this! There have been some developments: ACRA received a very interesting letter from DCC Councillor David Jones; ACRA wrote a letter to CBC Leader of the Council, Councillor Ray Nottage; WCRA wrote a memo to both DCC and CBC about the credibility of the financial analysis that will underpin some future decisions. You can read all of these documents at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”.
We also learned that the nine Leaders of the Councils in Dorset had recently met with Greg Clarke MP, Minister for Communities and Local Government, who advised that he was keen for the Councils in Dorset to further investigate their options but that he would not be stipulating what form the future structure should take.
First a quick recap – this whole scene is so confusing it doesn’t hurt to revise where things stand from time to time. The drive for change was initiated by Central Government who plan to reduce Revenue Support Grant to zero by 2020 thereby forcing Local Authorities to rely upon Council Tax, Business Rates, and other income to fund public services utilising a reduced cost base. With change inevitable a number of business models are being investigated.
The Combined Authority: If it gets off the ground this body will develop a strategy for economic development across the County and the transport infrastructure needed to achieve and sustain that. Most residents of Dorset would consider that long overdue and yet some rural Councils are still undecided and it’s that dithering that is so frustrating other Councils. This body is not designed to cut costs (it will in fact incur some relatively modest running costs) nor will it deliver the aspirations of Central Government regarding growth, devolution and efficiency. It can in theory exist with Unitary Authorities.
New Unitary Authority: The current state of play is that all 9 Councils are being asked to approve a proposal to explore 3 options (1) merging CBC with Bournemouth, East Dorset, and Poole leaving a rump of Dorset to possibly form their own Unitary Authority (2) merging all 9 councils in Dorset into a single Authority (3) doing nothing
The national Local Government Association has been asked to assist in the process with another body called Local Partnerships. They have agreed to do the analytical work free of charge, with an estimated duration of 16-20 weeks (this very short timetable is what prompted WCRA to write to Leader of DCC, Leader of CBC and CBC Chief Executive as mentioned above).
Our umbrella group ACRA met and discussed the situation. They noted in the set of principles governing this reorganisation recently adopted by the leaders and chief executives of all nine councils that “public support/acceptance of whatever decisions are made” is a key measure of success. (The full set of principles and associated method statements plus minutes of the ACRA meeting can be found at www.wcresidents.co.uk ).
It was felt that ACRA members will have a vital part to play in that process and Mike Collard (SAMRA) and Jim Biggin (WCRA) will be meeting Councillor Nottage and CBC Chief Executive David McIntosh early in the New Year to discuss the reorganisation.
One of the factors that most worries us in this whole scenario is the history of Bournemouth’s financial officers and the fact that Bournemouth’s budget for 2015-16 currently estimates being £1.3 million in the red by March 2016.
Bournemouth outsources some facets of their operations to a company called Mouchel. In 2011 they suspended their then chief accountant Stephen Parker who said that in their arrangements with Mouchel the council had failed to consider options that would have provided “a more balanced financial and risk-assessed contract”. Parker was escorted from the Town Hall after e-mailing his concerns to Councillors. He was subsequently re-instated and Bournemouth acknowledged he had made his thoughts public with “honest intent”.
In 2014 finance director Liz Wilkinson was suspended and later resigned. An employment tribunal sat in September 2015 and has yet to publish its findings.
Last month, the council’s two most senior finance officers announced they are to leave the authority. Acting executive director of finance Ian Milner resigned after transferring from CBC in October of last year. Director of strategic finance Robin Ingleton, who started in September 2012, has decided to take early retirement.
We believe this represents the strongest possible argument for not skimping due diligence investigations
Have a good Christmas
We wish the compliments of the season to all our readers. We’re going to have a rest now – next year could be quite busy!