Buses, waste bins, the airport, grants for the disabled

August 2016

DCC and local buses

Following the cancellation of Yellow Bus routes 24 and 111, Cllr Margaret Phipps, Cllr Sue Spittle and Jim Biggin of WCRA met DCC Leader Cllr Robert Gould on 26th July. Minutes of the meeting have been posted to the website www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on latest changes.

One of the more startling facts to come out is the extent to which councils across England are cutting back (or in some cases ceasing completely) their subsidy of bus companies. This has been done or is actively being considered in for example:  Cumbria, Derbyshire, Flintshire, Hull, Lancashire, Northampton, Oxfordshire, Somerset and Worcester.
What emerged is that the whole system is simply not fit for purpose and particularly the funding of the pensioner’s bus passes. Despite repeated requests to allow pensioners to contribute part of each bus fare Central Government continues to ignore a growing crisis. As more and more pensioners across the country are left with a free bus pass but no bus to use it on the system is creating exactly the opposite social conditions to those it was intended to engender and is well on the way to joining the ranks of other such infamous Government initiatives as the Child Support Agency and subsidised personal pensions.
Having acknowledged that, it appears DCC Officers cancelled the subsidies for routes 24 and 111 simply because they happened to be up for renewal and they were able to save £192,000 a year without a great deal of effort and without consulting any local representatives.

A new unsubsidised More-Bus route has been set up to replace the axed buses and its timetable has been placed on the website www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on latest changes.

A public meeting was organised by Councillors Sue Spittle and Margaret Phipps at the Hall on the Hill. We asked Councillor Spittle for a comment:
Many thanks to all who attended our meeting last Friday and heard the representatives from Dorset County Council, More-Bus and the Community Buses speak and respond to your questions. I have received further timetables for the 24 service which will be placed in the entrance to the Hall, or found on the More-Bus website http://www.morebus.co.uk/service.shtml?serviceid=5811
Two people came forward to assist with the Community Buses, which may assist an extra journey to be implemented. If you can spare an hour or so and would like to either drive one of the Minibuses available through Dial-a-Bus or Age Concern, please take a look at these websites:
Any questions please contact me on 01202484623(home); 07808298812(mobile)
cllr.sspittle@christchurch.gov.uk or Margaret Phipps on 01202 478266; cllr.mphipps@christchurch.gov.uk
Refuse on the Quomps

Last month we told you how the local seagulls were gaining weight from eating discarded pizza since the waste bins were removed from the Quay. CBC had previously said they would review the matter at the end of September. However, immediately after the appearance of our July Newsletter CBC executed a quick volte-face and the waste bins are to be replaced pronto.
You may have heard the rumour that our newsletter was picked up by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds who squawked at CBC – we couldn’t possibly comment.

News from the Airport

For the year to date, passenger numbers stand at 208,000 against a budget of 192,000 for the period (that’s up 8%). As a consequence, the Airport is ahead of on its financial budget. However, the results are 24% down on last year. It remains important that the Airport continues to manage costs closely and increase its revenue, in order to achieve financial sustainability.
If we look at revenue, all forms of aviation account for 48%, car parking 27%, and other revenue, from training courses and the like, 25%. It is illuminating just how dependent the airport is on car parking revenue.  Ryanair have announced a doubling of their flying programme for the winter season, including a new route to Krakow. There are also additional Cunard cruise flights planned for this year.
Full minutes of the latest meeting with the airport are at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on latest changes along with the 2016-17 flight timetables
Assistance for Disabled and Elderly Home Owners
In the July Newsletter Councillor Sue Spittle mentioned that new grants would shortly be available for disabled and elderly residents to claim for assistance towards the cost of adaptations to their properties. She now reports:
The policy has now been accepted by the two Committees at Christchurch Borough Council and I have asked WCRA to place the relevant details on their website. You will see the substantial information covers 12 pages. The most significant change is that if a resident requires a small adaptation such as a stair lift or change their bathroom to a wet/shower room, where the cost is less than £5,000 it is not subject to a means test, only a referral from a recognised professional. If you would like more information on this matter please do not hesitate to contact me.
Sue’s contact details can be found under “buses” above. The full information will be put on the website as soon as our webmaster returns from holiday.
Reorganisation of Local Government:

On Thursday 28th July Jim Biggin representing ACRA met with David McIntosh CBC CEO and from that meeting and other sources learned that:

The public consultation is still supposedly scheduled for August-September. WCRA do not see this timetable as entirely satisfactory, partly because no time has been built in to review either the financial review or the consultation questionnaire and partly because it embraces the peak holiday period.

It is planned to create a representative statistical sample of 20,000 Dorset residents. The logistics of creating the database of 20,000 representative residents, ensuring that they are who the councils think they are, and then mailing them is not understood, particularly within the timeframe envisaged

The financial review is apparently complete but needs a narrative before it can be put into the public domain. WCRA wonder why the narrative had not been written as the model was developed, particularly that vital part dealing with the assumptions that have been made. We do get the feeling that this review will prove to be a somewhat unsatisfactory document.

The review only considers three unitary authorities being Bournemouth and Poole merged in any event plus: (1) nobody else; (2) Christchurch; (3) Christchurch and East Dorset. In each case the remaining authorities are merged to form a separate unitary shire authority. WCRA expect the report to be slanted towards option (2).

The current budget gaps across Dorset amount in total to £80 million and the review works on the basis that about £50 million of that gap will be closed by 2019-20 whilst the remaining £30 million will be found from savings made by creating the new unitary authorities. WCRA take leave to express doubts that this scenario will come to fruition in quite the smooth, trouble free manner apparently envisaged.

The equalisation of Council Tax. As predicted the task of harmonising Council Tax across the various Authorities has proved a difficulty. Tax rates for a Band D property range from around £1,200 pa at the cheapest end to approximately £1,600 pa at the most expensive end. That represents the largest differential within one area seen by Central Government so far. They have indicated that Dorset can take up to 20 years to effect harmonisation.

This means that tax payers at the £1,200 pa end of the scale can anticipate tax rises of 3.99% pa throughout the 20 year period whilst those at the £1,600 pa end will still experience increases but of a smaller percentage value. This assumes current Government rules covering maximum annual increases in Council Tax and referenda triggering threshold levels.
On this basis £1,200 pa becomes roughly £2,500 pa over 20 years, an increase of 110%, whilst £1,600 pa increasing by 2.5% pa also becomes roughly £2,500 pa over the same period, an increase of 60%.

These rates of increase, particularly at the lower levels, are concerning given the regressive nature of Council Tax which is not linked directly to income and thereby ability to pay. Furthermore, it is 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.

The cost of conversion to the new structures has supposedly been estimated. Such estimates are notoriously difficult to quantify with any real degree of accuracy. They also create the classic investment “J-Curve” which is familiar to anybody in business in which initial financial outlay creates a deficit which is gradually recouped over time out of future savings. (Think of buying a shop, fitting it out and buying the initial stock. This creates a financial deficit which is then clawed back out of future income). The whole timing and management of the conversion process is not clear at this stage and is a source of some concern.

If there are significant developments before mid-September, particularly on the public consultation front, we will cover them for you in a special Newsletter.

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