|Marsh Lane School
The new school has been approved without being “called in”. We obtained comment from Ward Councillor Colin Bungey:
Fantastic news for all of those parents who have children that couldn't get into a local school and congratulations to all those parents that campaigned so hard to make this happen -it was a privilege for me to speak up for them at the planning meeting. It is now up to the local councillors to work with all residents and Dorset County Council to resolve any traffic issues and concerns that residents have.
And from DCC Councillor Margaret Phipps:
Whilst I realise there are some who were opposed to this location for a new school, it is very good news for West Christchurch children and their parents. We currently have 90 children being taught in temporary accommodation and by September this number will have risen to 120. The decision to allow planning permission to be granted means a secure future for primary education in Christchurch, with children being able to attend a school close to where they live.
We also asked DCC Project Officer Chris Brown for an outline timetable:
Since the decision by The Secretary of State to allow planning permission to be granted for a new primary school in Christchurch, the county council is currently in the process of completing land transactions and establishing final construction costs.
Once this has been done, the intention is that work will start in July or August, to create a new vehicular access into the proposed school and making service/drainage connections in Marsh Lane.
It is hoped that the main construction of the school buildings will start in early autumn with completion anticipated summer 2017.
To see full plans for the school please visit www.dorsetforyou.com/christchurchprimaryschool
WCRA has asked to be included in the distribution of future progress reports so that we can keep you abreast of developments
Roeshot Hill HGV Petition
We heard from DCC Councillor Margaret Phipps:
Just to let you know that the original petition has now been sent from Christchurch residents (ACRA) to Hampshire County Council. Copies have been sent to Dorset County Council and Christchurch Borough Council. I want to thank everyone for all the effort which you put into getting signatures. We ended up with 1,133 signatures in total, which I know took a huge amount of effort to collect.
Waste Bins on the Quomps
Many of you are unhappy about the litter on the Quomps following the experimental removal of the waste bins. A report is being prepared for the CBC Policy and Resources Committee that will meet in the Council Offices on June 22nd regarding this issue, so that Councillors can discuss the bin removal and decide if they wish to continue with the trial or put the bins back. We’ll have comment for you from Councillors in the July Newsletter.
Since the 20th May there have been three burglaries in the West Christchurch area. Entry to the houses has been gained by smashing the glass in patio doors. High value watches, cash and an iPad have been stolen.
Please take the time to review your security arrangements: check that any security lighting works; lock any gate that gives access to your back garden; do not leave keys in the lock on the inside of doors or windows; always close and lock doors and windows; do not leave things that may be attractive to a burglar on display.
And Telephone Fraud
Dorset Police is alerting residents to the latest phone scams, after seeing a large increase in the number reported compared to previous years. The two most common organisations that criminals are pretending to be from are currently Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Talk-Talk. Dorset Police received 71 reports linked to HMRC scams between 1st and 31st May 2016, compared to one report in the same period in 2015 and three reports throughout May in 2014.
Over the last couple of years, fraudsters have pretended to be police officers and bank workers when they’ve called their victims, but the latest phone scam involves criminals pretending to be from HMRC. Fraudsters are cold calling members of the public to tell them that they owe tax or that HMRC owe them a tax refund.
Criminals then obtain bank details and personal information from their unsuspecting victims and commit fraudulent activity on their bank accounts. Some individuals have received an answerphone message and are advised to call 01202 281-260 and 01202 834-780, but these numbers are not connected with the real HMRC.
Remember - never give out bank details or bank cards in person, email, in the mail or over the phone - no matter where people say they are from and don’t let anyone into your property if you don't know them.
A338 roadworks are finished - temporarily!
DCC has been responsible for delivering the project on time and on budget. The nine month long £22 million rebuild of the A338 has been funded through the Dorset Growth Deal, secured by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership. It marks the end of the first of the infrastructure projects aimed at unlocking suppressed growth around Bournemouth Airport and boosting the local economy.
The stretch of the A338 Bournemouth Spur Road between Ashley Heath and Blackwater has been completely rebuilt and now boasts: a new lower noise surface layer; a one metre hard strip for emergency use; improved drainage; new concrete central safety barrier to reduce maintenance and likelihood of crossover accidents; new signs, cats’ eyes and road markings
It has been one of the greenest road maintenance projects in the country. As part of the reconstruction, 70,000 tonnes of material from the old road has been recycled. Producing the material on site has reduced carbon emissions by 582 tonnes compared with transporting the material from a quarry.
The project has also been innovative in its approach to protecting reptiles in the area. Organisations must usually apply for a licence from Natural England before beginning lengthy work to install reptile fencing and move the creatures by hand. For the A338, which goes through areas of protected heathland, ecologists at DCC worked closely with Natural England to agree a new method of working that entailed deliberately making the road verges unattractive as a habitat while enhancing nearby areas and thus encouraging the reptiles to migrate to safety.
However, plans have recently been revealed for the bit of the road from Blackwater Junction to the Cooper Dean to be widened to three lanes. Bournemouth Council will soon undertake a public consultation, aiming to start road works in 2018. It is hoped that three lanes on each side will help ease traffic problems in the area and will also give better access to land around Wessex Fields. Plans have already been announced to alter the Hurn Roundabout and Chapel Gate Roundabout.
Local Government Reorganisation
It’s been another busy month and we have much to report.
If you missed the excellent Dave Barnes presentation in The Hall on the Hill there’s a repeat showing organised by Winkton Residents Association on Wednesday 15th June at 18:30 in the back room at the Fisherman’s Haunt on the B3347.
The Role of Central Government
We met with CBC Chief Executive David McIntosh and Strategic Director Dave Barnes. From this meeting we learned that the formation of the new Dorset Combined Authority is scheduled for implementation in December 2016. This new body covering all existing Councils (including Bournemouth and Poole) will deal initially with Strategic Transport and Economic Development with further functions potentially added in 2017 and subsequently. This is the body that will liaise with the Local Enterprise Board and is where the directly elected executive mayor that Dorset now seems destined to acquire will fit into the structure
We further learned that Central Government has said that either a directly elected executive mayor or a unitary structure are now effectively mandatory and have indicated a preference in Dorset for two Unitary Authorities subsidiary to the new Combined Authority. We think that means Christchurch-Bournemouth-Poole as one Authority and shire-Dorset as the second with East Dorset possibly being split into two portions – urban (Ferndown, West Moors) coming in with Christchurch and rural (Wimborne etc.) remaining with shire-Dorset.
Readers with long memories will recall this quote from our December 2015 Newsletter: 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
David McIntosh also told us Central Government has said Dorset must appoint no more than 4 people to represent the whole county (including Bournemouth and Poole) in future negotiations. As Christchurch (a) has no massive operating debt and (b) has no pension fund deficit it should in our view be represented in that negotiating team. The likes of Poole and West Dorset (to pick just two of several options) would of necessity negotiate from a weaker standpoint with their debts very much at the front of their minds.
The level of debts held by many Dorset Councils and the relative size of their pension fund deficits will cause some headaches when implementing all of these new arrangements and we still await commentary and proposals on this front in the form of the much delayed high level financial review. It is now hopefully going to appear end June. It won't escape your notice that the target has slipped again and is now predicted to be 6 months after the start date - which is exactly the minimum timescale predicted by David Barnett WCRA Treasurer and Jim Biggin WCRA Chairman last December!
Making money for Westminster to spend
Central Government hasn’t contented itself with just those stipulations however. It has further decreed that any new arrangements must be fiscally neutral (no requests for Government funds) to start with and that they anticipate a real cash return to HMG in future.
That is to say our Council Tax and Business Rates will in future be partly used to fund Central Government activity! But Council Tax and Business Rates are both regressive taxes - they are not linked directly to income and thereby ability to pay. Furthermore, both are based on April 1991 property values – which are 25 years out of date.
Today, a top band (Band H) property owner pays a fraction over three times as much Council Tax as a bottom band (Band A) owner but owns a property that is at least eight times more valuable. This means that in general people on lower incomes are subsidising higher earners by funding a disproportionately large share of local government expenditure.
It is clear that in future Council services must be run for less than the cost of current arrangements (possibly by reducing the level of service provided) and new sources and higher levels of income into Local Authorities must be found.
As far as reducing costs are concerned, there is scope for shared services. In addition to waste and benefit payments that already exist we identify: Countryside and Parks; Tourism; Coastal Protection and Maintenance; Highways; the management of Social Services; the management of Planning; IT; Legal Services; Human Resources management; finance and accounting.
CBC has a special Council Meeting scheduled for 14th June at Civic Offices to discuss the non-financial aspects of reorganisation. To assist Councillors with their deliberations, ACRA members cooperated to produce a paper that has been sent to every CBC Councillor. You can read the paper for yourself at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates – 2016”. It’s an easy read and amongst other issues it addresses the question of a local Christchurch mayor.
The public consultation will now take place August-September but will be limited to consultation on unitary options with other options not being considered. This reflects the tougher stance adopted by Central Government as described above. We will bring you more details as soon as we can.
Elections to the new Councils are pencilled in for May 2019.
We need some help
After a period of stability we have recently lost two long standing members of our management team and need to replace them
We meet once a month from 7.30pm to 9.00pm to talk about local issues. Then individual members investigate topics in which they have expertise or a keen personal interest. You can read minutes of our meetings at www.wcresidents.co.uk
If you feel you could contribute to our community in this way please e-mail Jim Biggin on firstname.lastname@example.org