|Come and say Hello
We’re running a public meeting on Thursday 21st April at 7.30pm in Hall on the Hall, Marlow Drive, West Christchurch.
Dave Barnes, CBC Strategic Director, will give a presentation on the impending reorganisation of Local Government – that is the potential merger of Christchurch with Bournemouth and Poole. That will be followed by a question and answer session involving our local councillors and hopefully you, our members.
Key members of the ACRA review team will also be present so if you want to ask them any questions, this will be your chance
What happened to the High Level Strategic Review?
The target date they gave themselves of 26th March 2016 came and went and nothing happened
You may have noticed that we and others were somewhat sceptical of the timescales that have been proposed for this review. Soon after the report failed to materialise we asked what had happened and were told that the target date is now “end May”. We are assuming they mean 2016 but can’t promise that.
If a decorator told you he could decorate your entire home in one day we suspect you might harbour some doubt as to the feasibility of that claim. In the same way, if you’ve been involved with these processes in your working life you just know when a proposition makes absolutely no sense.
This failure to understand the size and complexity of the task raises three serious issues.
The first is the competence and credibility of the people who made the initial assessment and came up with 26th March 2016. If they can be that far wrong, what value can we place on their report once it finally sees the light of day?
The second is the knowledge and experience of the people who accepted the target date when they should have simply kicked it into touch. They are clearly operating outside their field of expertise and that does not bode well for the future.
The third is what this delay does to the overall timetable, which you will recall is Government driven and is tied into the date of the next election. Surely they wouldn’t try to make up time by cutting back on the public consultation …..would they?
Was it something we said?
Anyway, to what extent is the financial review just a piece of irrelevant bureaucratic box-ticking?
Last month we told you that when DCC councillors were asked their preference they strongly indicated they would prefer to see the county split into two unitary authorities, divorcing Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch away from the rest to form one authority and leaving the remaining more rural areas to join forces as Shire-Dorset.
We believe this attitude stems from two factors.
First the attempted breakaway by Bournemouth, Christchurch, East Dorset and Poole in autumn 2015 that so shocked many other local councils; second from studying Wiltshire because the Wiltshire merger is cited as one of the most successful unitary initiatives in the UK, achieved on time and under budget.
In December 2007, Central Government approved a proposal for a merged council to take over the responsibilities for all local government services in Wiltshire that were previously provided by four district councils and the county council. Wiltshire has a population of around 435,000. As a new unitary, the council then reportedly achieved savings of just over £100m in its first four years, without having to cut local services.
Wiltshire was smaller than Dorset, and far less complex. Dorset has nine authorities and includes two very awkward existing unitary authorities in Bournemouth and Poole. This factor is we believe driving a movement to split Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and possibly the urban parts of East Dorset away from the rest of rural Dorset thereby making Shire-Dorset very like Wiltshire.
(Yes, we could envisage East Dorset being split into two parts with Ferndown merging into Bournemouth but Wimborne going into Shire-Dorset. This makes for an interesting negotiating position as far as East Dorset is concerned)
We think this strategic movement will develop irrespective of the outcome of the financial review.
Dorset Fire Service
The merging of local services is all the rage at the moment.
Whist we await developments on the Local Authority front, Dorset and Wiltshire's fire services are merging in an effort to save more than £6m a year. Central Government grants to fire services were reduced in 2010, which prompted the money-saving move.
The combined service will have an annual budget of £55m, making it one of the larger such services. It will look after 1.45 million people, will operate 50 fire stations, 73 fire engines and employ more than 1,000 full-time and on-call firefighters.
999 calls for both Wiltshire and Dorset are answered from a new central control room in Wiltshire. Dorset's fire headquarters in Dorchester will be officially closed and the new HQ will be in Salisbury. Let’s hope they know where Christchurch is!
Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP)
If you’ve been reading these letters for a while you’ll be familiar with the local Keystone Cops, otherwise known as DWP; if not click on www.wcresidents.co.uk and then on “newsletters – index”. Use that to read the appropriate back-numbers. This applies to any topic where you need to understand the history.
In March 2016 the Echo reported that the director who was running DWP when the company spent £2.8m beyond its budget, was paid £70,000 whilst on “gardening leave” before he lost his appeal against dismissal. A review of the over-spend found that DWP had spent more than £1.5m on hire vehicles without utilising a proper tendering process whilst several vehicles were operated without their details being passed to the Motor Insurers Information Centre - a criminal offence. DWP also managed to purchase vehicles that are too large to fit down the narrower Dorset roads. You may well have your own story to tell about them failing to empty your bins and recycle your glass.
That director was previously a senior DCC Officer who had aspirations to run a large waste processing plant at Hurn which we and others fought hard to prevent being built. During that struggle we came to believe that whilst he could function as a Local Authority employee, as far as running waste removal operations were concerned he might struggle to organise the proverbial in a brewery. We did communicate that to DCC but sadly, nobody listened to us and so he became a director of DWP when it was established in early 2011.
This is all part of a picture that portrays people who are good Local Authority employees entering into the type of job that they are simply not suited to and Councillors who have little experience of monitoring such activity being given a responsibility they struggle to discharge. As Councils are pushed ever further down the road of entrepreneurial activity by an aggressive Central Government we foresee plenty of scope for further local difficulties.
May 2016 will see the election of the second Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner.
Since the election of Martyn Underhill in 2012 we have met him several times. Before that getting to see a senior policeman was difficult; getting one to listen and take resident’s concerns seriously was next to impossible. On the website www.wcresidents.co.uk under ACRA you’ll find notes of our meetings.
We are therefore very much in favour of the position of Police and Crime Commissioner. Sadly, in 2012 there was little electioneering and the turnout was low. We hope things will be different this time. To that end ACRA have organised a public hustings for Wednesday 27th April in Druitt Hall, Central Christchurch at 7.30pm. The candidates are:
|Name of Candidate
|GRAHAM Andrew John Noble
|TAYLOR Lester Geoffrey
Come along and hear the contenders outline their plans before participating in a question and answer session with the audience. Let the person who will be responsible for policing (and possibly the fire service also) in Dorset over the next four years have the benefit of your views. See you there!
DCC is facing unprecedented budget pressures and has to consider how it can best provide library services with a significantly reduced budget. It is considering changes to the mobile library service and is consulting with users of the service.
Currently DCC has four public library mobile vehicles. From May 2016, this will change to three vehicles following a rearrangement of routes and the withdrawal of one vehicle. Another mobile, the Home Library Service mobile, visits residential homes for older people and sheltered accommodation.
It is now proposed that the Home Library Service mobile is maintained but that the public library service mobiles are all withdrawn. How do you view that proposal? The consultation will run from April 4 to May 14 2016.
The survey is available to you at www.dorsetforyou.com/mobile-library-consultation
Local Bus Services (Nos. 24 and 111)
DCC has to save more than £16 million in 2016-17. It can’t keep balancing the books by transferring money out of reserves. As part of its drive to save money DCC has decided to reduce the funding for Dorset bus routes by a further £500,000.
DCC Councillor Margaret Phipps has confirmed that services 24 and 111 in the St. Catherine’s and Hurn area are currently subsidised by DCC. The contract for these routes is due to end in late July 2016, which will present an opportunity to review the funding arrangements for these services.
She tells us that both DCC and Yellow Buses appreciate that people rely on these services for their daily lives. They are working together to remove the need for subsidy while retaining these routes on a commercially operated basis.
She believes that the move towards commercial operation is likely to lead to changes to existing timetables and possibly the route these services take. We think she’s absolutely correct and that we’re heading for yet more pensioners with a bus pass but no bus to use it on. It is important to gather information from users, to ensure the revised services continue to meet people’s needs and also gain enough demand to sustain them.
A consultation is due to be carried out about this, and posters will be displayed on affected buses.
If you are a bus user and want to retain these services, please respond to the consultation, and have your say. The consultation will be from 22nd April to 20th May and you will be able to view it during that period at: www.dorsetforyou.com/24-and-111-bus-review
Petition to stop HGV running through our neighbourhood
You should already be aware that there are 2 adjoining gravel extraction sites planned for Roeshot Hill, one in Hampshire and one in Dorset.
On the website www.wcresidents.co.uk is a non-technical summary. From that you can discover at paragraph 5.5 that the overall traffic movements generated by the need to transport the gravel will average 120 per day, 60 in and 60 out, and that the principal direction of the lorries will be to the west towards Poole and Bournemouth. This will mean that for the next 30 years HGV lorry traffic will plough through Christchurch and out along Barrack Road and Fairmile-Hurn Road. Those travelling East could travel through Highcliffe.
These lorry movements will have serious detrimental effects not only to the Christchurch road system and transport links, but to residents and businesses that will have to suffer these HGVs passing their properties on a daily basis.
We want to obtain as many signatures as possible on a petition which will be presented to both Hampshire and Dorset County Councils asking them to ban HGVs through Christchurch. To sign the petition please reply to this e-mail newsletter giving your name, address and post code and then copy and paste the following into the e-mail:
We demand that HGV traffic generated by the extraction of minerals at the Hampshire and Dorset Roeshot Sites is BANNED from travelling through the Borough of Christchurch. Use of urban routes by HGVs would have a major detrimental impact on the Borough’s residents, who would suffer for the duration of extraction, anticipated at 30 years.
Thanks for your help.
And finally, the latest e-scam
Fraudsters are targeting residents who are expecting to make a payment for work such as property repairs. The fraudsters watch your property and note details on the side of tradesmen’s vans. Then, via email, they will pretend to be somebody who has recently completed work for you, using an email address that looks as if it comes from the genuine tradesman. They ask for funds to be transferred via bank transfer.
The best way for you to protect yourself is to establish the bank details for payment before the work is even started. If you can’t do that ask the tradesman face to face for his bank details rather than rely upon an e-mail
If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud you can report it online at: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by telephone on: 0300 123 2040.
See you at the public meeting on Thursday 21st April at 7.30pm in Hall on the Hall, Marlow Drive, West Christchurch.