|Local Buses 24 and 111
The contract between DCC and Yellow Bus for services 24 and 111 comes to an end in July. Yellow Bus has been advised that DCC will not be in a position to support these services beyond that time. DCC held a widely publicised public consultation that we actively promoted and which as a consequence elicited over 1,000 replies. Despite all of that, Yellow Bus has announced that these routes cannot be operated without financial support and has consequently withdrawn them with effect from 6 August 2016.
The 08:00 schooldays only 111 service from Hurn to Twynham / Christchurch Infants and 15:30 return, which currently carries 34 entitled school children, will continue to operate. Existing commercial services X1, X2 1a, 1b and 1c will continue to be accessible for many, albeit at greater distance from their homes.
For those people who cannot access these services there are four community transport schemes catering for a variety of needs and usually offering a door to door service: Age Concern, Christchurch (01202 488311), Christchurch Community Partnership Dial-a-bus (01202 989632), Christchurch Neighbour Car (01202 989632), and Highcliffe Friends in Need (01425 279328).
Full details are on: www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/travel-dorset/bus/community-transport
In a letter to Chris Chope MP, Andrew Smith Managing Director of Bournemouth Transport says: The majority of passengers on 24 and 111 are using concessionary bus passes. For the service to be viable we need more fare-paying passengers.
As a regular reader you will be aware that Councils’ ability to maintain their services has increasingly come into question in recent times. In figures published recently the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy revealed that local government spending across the country is set to fall by a further 1% in this financial year 2016-17. There’s startling information about Poole in that regard later in this newsletter.
Just two areas of spending are set to increase - they both pertain to social care and are thus demand driven: adult services are projecting an increase of £308m (a 2.2% rise), and spending on children’s services is set to grow by £136m (a 1.8% rise). These are the cuckoo in the nest, eating up resources and causing other services to be cut. Local authorities (including DCC) are digging into their cash reserves in order to balance their books. If you’ve been following the Local Authority reorganisation soap opera brought to you each month in this newsletter then you know what this is all about.
However, in coming to terms with this difficult task it does seem to us that DCC find it easier to tackle a soft target like the bus subsidy rather than looking closer to home in their internal operations. We asked Councillor Sue Spittle for some comments:
I have received not only e-mails but also visits from residents practically in tears about the thought of having to walk down and back up again to the Grove, when the 111 and 24 Yellow Buses cease to go along River Way, Hillside Drive and many more side roads on its way to the Town centre.
Cllr Margaret Phipps has certainly been on the case by lobbying many at Dorset County Council in Dorchester. Many of you know that because the Bus Company alleges it is not economic to run a service along that route, Dorset County Council have been subsidising that service, but following an economic review this will be removed on 6th August.
There have been many meetings on this subject, the last being on Thursday 7th July with the Travel Operations Manager from Dorset County Council, at Civic Offices. This was by invitation and as it covered the whole of Christchurch seating was limited. Cllr Margaret Phipps and I have therefore arranged for a public meeting to be held on Friday 5th August at 2.30 – 4.30pm in St Catherine’s Hill Community Hall. This will enable you to speak to the DCC Officer and be updated on the situation.
It is understood that there is a possibility of another operator providing a bus service in this area but to date details of timings and the route are still being negotiated, but it is hoped that all will be finalised by the first week in August.
I like many have been extremely disappointed at the county’s decision regarding cutting services, particularly when the Bus Services Bill is going through Parliament at the moment encouraging Local Authorities to assist with Public Transport, please see ;-
I spoke to our Member of Parliament Chris Chope who confirmed he had spoken on this bill when it was in the House of Commons particularly regarding the use of bus passes with a small journey charge but was defeated. Having spoken with many of you I understand this system would be preferred in order that a bus service can be retained.
Apart from the actual bus service we have now also discovered that DCC carried out the public consultation mentioned above after having already decided to cut the subsidy for the buses. This effectively means that the consultation appears to have been a waste of time and public money and brings the whole issue of DCC credibility into question.
DCC Cllr Margaret Phipps has asked for the whole matter to come to a DCC Scrutiny Committee to challenge the Executive to explain how they came to the decision to completely remove subsidies. Both WCRA and ACRA have written to DCC and local MP Chris Chope. You can read the letters on our website www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”
CBC Cllr Sue Spittle, DCC Cllr Margaret Phipps and Jim Biggin of WCRA and ACRA will be meeting DCC Leader Cllr Robert Gould later this month to seek an explanation for all of this and we will publish minutes of that meeting on the website
New school at Marsh Lane
DCC have published new traffic calming plans. You can view them at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on “latest updates”
No waste bins on the Quomps
At a recent CBC Policy and Resources Committee meeting, despite objections from ACRA, Christchurch Citizens and individual members of the public it was decided that the litter bins would not be reinstated on Christchurch Quay before 1 September 2016 during which time continued monitoring by Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP) would take place.
A DWP litter picker will be collecting litter each morning from about 6.30 am after the wind and the gulls have done their best to disperse it. The Committee were told at the meeting that apparently the litter picker is only collecting half a bag of rubbish each day. They were not informed of any increase in the average weight of local gulls. We asked Councillor Margaret Phipps to summarise the situation for us:
On 1st March Christchurch Council together with the Dorset Waste Partnership began an experiment on Christchurch Quay by removing the litter bins. In their place posters were attached asking people to “Take Your Litter Home”. This approach has worked successfully in many other areas of the country. The situation on the Quay has been monitored and the good news is that this experiment, up to now, is working as the amount of litter collected has drastically decreased. Most people are taking their litter away with them. Unfortunately and disappointingly there are a minority who are not.
This issue was brought before the Christchurch Council Policy and Resources Committee on 22nd June so that Councillors could have a full discussion as to whether to continue with the trial or replace the bins. The decision of the Committee was to continue until the end of August, which would mean the trial lasting for six months and would include most of the summer holidays. This is so that the Council and DWP can get a realistic impression of the trial across the tourist season.
Generally people in Christchurch and visitors are responsible, and are proud to look after the environment. They are happy to take away any litter they create and recycle it. Unfortunately there are others who visit the Quay and feel it is their right to discard their rubbish anywhere they want to. No-one arrives at the Quay with litter, so why should they leave any behind? All litter collected from bins across the Borough goes straight to landfill and is not recycled. Not only does this cost money, but it is left to rot in the ground for generations.
As Environment Portfolio Holder at Christchurch Council, I hope that residents will support this initiative for the rest of the trial period, so that a full assessment of this experiment can be made.
Weeds growing in local roads
A member of our WCRA committee contacted DCC in an effort to persuade them to treat all the weeds that can be seen growing in the roads all over Christchurch. Here’s the DCC reply:
This is to confirm that the weed spraying contract is due to start on the 11th July in Christchurch and then head west with a planned completion for the entire county by the beginning of August. Once the spray has taken effect (which is usually 10 to 14 days later) the weeds will die and be swept up as part on the road sweeping cycle.
Pre-contract meetings in February had agreed an earlier start date for the end of May. Regrettably the contractor had significant staffing issues which were beyond our control and which we can only apologise for on their behalf. In fact the start date is earlier than last year but not as early as we had agreed.
As we discussed we have undertaken a review of the spraying contract and have instigated a framework that has various suppliers we can call on in the future which will help mitigate some of the issues around staff deployment we have recently experienced.
If you would like to help our community by joining our small team of volunteers and prodding the local council from time to time please contact Jim Biggin on firstname.lastname@example.org
Nice one Fred
The Mayor of Christchurch for 2015-16, Cllr Fred Neale, has handed out cheques from funds he raised during his Mayoral year to local organisations.
In total he raised £5,440 through a variety of fund-raising events and donations. The organisations to benefit are Age Concern, Christchurch who received £1,500, The Friends of Christchurch Station who also received £1,500 and Christchurch scout groups.
Cllr Fred Neale said: “It has been a hard year for charities fund raising so I’m surprised and pleased that I’ve been able to raise so much to go to local Christchurch organisations”.
Private Sector Housing Assistance Policy
Cllr Sue Spittle has some interesting news:
Coming soon to the Council’s Scrutiny and also Policy and Resources meeting is a recommendation that disabled residents may apply for discretionary grants to assist them install in their homes certain aids such as stair lifts and wet rooms, and also other improvements to their home following a referral from an Occupational Therapist, which I am strongly recommending in my position as Portfolio Holder for Housing, as installation of these aids will certainly improve many resident’s standard of life. This is subject to agreement by my colleagues, and I will be able to let you have more information in the next newsletter, so watch this space!
Building new houses near St Catherine’s Hill and Town Common
Cllr Sue Spittle tells us that Natural England have amended the rules slightly. As many of you may already know, new residential development may not be built within 400m of St Catherine’s Hill and Town Common. Following a High Court Case the method used to measure the 400m has been changed.
If you are potentially affected by this you should read The Dorset Heathlands Planning Framework 2015-2020 Consultation Draft Supplementary Planning Document especially appendix C found here: www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/article/387392/Dorset-Heathlands-Planning-Framework
Please direct any questions to Cllr Spittle (contact details on the website)
The latest scams
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has noticed an increase in reports of fraudsters placing fake letter boxes on residential properties and flats in an attempt to harvest the mail and use the information obtained to open various lines of credit with financial providers in the name of the innocent resident. Keep ‘em peeled!
The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro begin on 6th August 2016 and as of late June you have been able to purchase tickets from the Rio 2016 ticket offices. Purchasing from an unauthorised seller or a ticket tout could leave you out of pocket; not only are the tickets advertised at inflated prices, but there is also a risk that the tickets purchased are counterfeit or do not exist. Any individual with a counterfeit ticket will be refused entry.
The list of authorised sellers has been published on the official website and provides a list of trusted resellers; this can be found at www.rio2016.com. Equally, tickets purchased that are no longer needed can be sold through the Rio 2016 website for a 100% reimbursement of the amount paid if the tickets are resold.
Local Referendum results
A number of you asked us to publish the local referendum results:
Christchurch: Leave 18,268 (59%); Remain 12,782 (41%); Turnout 79%
East Dorset: Leave 33,702 (58%); Remain 24,786 (42%); Turnout 81%
Bournemouth: Leave 50,453 (55%); Remain 41,473 (45%); Turnout 69%
Poole: Leave 49,707 (58%); Remain 35,741 (42%); Turnout 75%
This overall UK result has thrown a number of rocks into a lot of pools – and not least the plans to reorganise Local Government. David Cameron has gone, George Osborne has gone, and Local Authorities minister Greg Clarke has gone! The new minister is Sajid Javid a strong euro-sceptic who campaigned for remain – which may tell us something. He’s also a former director of Frankfurt based Deutsche Bank – which may tell us even more. Once things become clearer we’ll let you know where we might be headed.
In the meantime, if you are new to this or just confused by the whole thing, ACRA has prepared a summary of events from October 2015 through to June 2016. You can read it on our website by going to www.wcresidents.co.uk and clicking on “latest changes”
If you’ve been following closely over the last few months you’ll know that Poole Council is in some financial difficulty. A dire picture of the state of council finances has been laid out in a recent report on the effects of government funding cuts and shows that Poole needs to save an additional £12million over the next three years.
The report reveals that on top of a £25million per year cut over the last six years to the council’s funding, the latest government reductions will amount to an additional £11.3m per year by 2020. This reduction in government funding of £36m between 2011 and 2020 is the equivalent of £530 a year for every household within the borough.
The council is working with a planning assumption of increasing council tax by the maximum 3.99% per year for the next three years whilst also reducing the services it provides.
The report was written before the change in PM and Chancellor but shows how bad things are in Poole. It raises for us the question of just how debt free Christchurch can be merged with Poole without in some way penalising the Council Tax payers in Christchurch.
Finally, for the benefit of those who I know are running a sweepstake on how late the “high level financial review” will be once it eventually makes it into the public domain – as of 15th July it had still not made an appearance (that’s 112 days late - original target date 26th March 2016).