Happy New Year. It’s January so we have to let the Chairman have his say. Sorry about that but you know what he’s like…
WCRA Chairman’s Report for 2016
Your Association remains in sound financial condition as reported by our Treasurer David Barnett and confirmed by our monthly accounts which are posted on the website. During the year we contributed to the purchase of a defibrillation unit that has now been installed at the Hall on the Hill.
The monthly circulation of our e-newsletter rose to nearly 1,600 e-mail addresses spread over an ever wider geographic area. Our readers are amongst the best informed people in Dorset and we know that a number of businesses print it and post it on their staff notice boards.
If you click here you will find an index of the topics dealt with as well as the newsletters themselves and that is the best way to bring yourself up to date on any particular topic. The minutes of our WCRA monthly management meetings are also helpful in that respect. Thanks go to our webmaster Eileen Lancaster who maintained our website that continued to receive a lot of visitors throughout the year.
At the end of the year we took a first tentative step into social media and created a Facebook entry called West Christchurch. We hope to develop this facility further in 2017.
We also provide a six monthly paper newsletter to those of our members who do not use e-mail.
Our thanks go to the small team of helpers who distribute that for us.
Our total membership fell to just over 1,500 households – our smallest for many years. Most of our collectors did their usual excellent job for which we thank them. Sadly a couple suffered ill health at inopportune times and we were let down by a small number of others. This occurred when our capacity to react was consumed by the whole business of reorganising all the councils in Dorset. We will endeavour to recover the position in 2017.
I must express my personal thanks to your committee who all worked very hard throughout 2016 but particularly to Sue Fotheringham in her first year organising our collectors. Without her efforts, often accompanied by her dog and assisted by her sister, things would have been far worse.
Marsh Lane School
As I said last year, it is always difficult for us when our membership is divided on an important issue and here we had three groupings: those totally against; those fully in favour; the majority who were for the school but with reservations. We supported the school because it is needed but endeavoured to obtain improvements to the plans and supporting road systems. We were partially successful in that objective.
Despite the attempts by our local MP to thwart the wishes of the majority the school was given a green light. We lost some members in the Marsh Lane area as a result and whilst we regret that we continue to believe that we took the correct path as far as the majority are concerned and particularly as far as our children and grandchildren are concerned.
During the year we had a disagreement with DCC over their unilateral decision to cancel some local buses. A report on our website dated 29th July 2016 gives full details. We were assisted in that by Councillor Margaret Phipps and Councillor Sue Spittle. We understand why DCC did what they did but not the way they went about it, which sadly reflected the often poor quality of the dealings between Dorchester and Christchurch.
Local Government Reorganisation
This is not the place to rerun all the twists and turns that went on during the year culminating in a public consultation and then its aftermath. If I list the reports that my colleagues and I produced during the year you’ll get some idea: Non-financial Issues June 2016; The story to date – a summary June 2016; Financial Analysis August 2016; Special Newsletter on Public Consultation August 2016 (also produced and distributed in paper format to members who do not receive our e-newsletters); Discussion with Ian Milner CBC Strategic Director October 2016; Interpretation of Results November 2016; Level of Participation November 2016; Summary of Public Consultation Findings December 2016; plus every Newsletter January to December 2016. These are all available on our website
We also organised a public meeting in April 2016 and talked regularly throughout the year to CBC Chief Executive David McIntosh and to other informed sources from Bournemouth, Poole and East Dorset as well as meeting amongst ourselves. In that respect I must thank David Barnett our Treasurer who never failed to assist me and whose background and training were of great benefit in their own right and because they dovetailed neatly with my own skills and experience.
I would also like to thank all of you who wrote thanking us for keeping you informed and expressing your views. Here’s just one typical direct quote from a member:
“Thank you for the time and effort that you put into producing understandable and above all balanced reports on some complicated and contentious subjects during the year. Let's hope for a quieter and peaceful 2017”.
This story isn’t over by any means and I anticipate that the January and February 2017 Newsletters will have news of yet further developments.
Could You Help?
We can’t survive unless local residents help us.
Please, if you feel you could assist us in any capacity – by joining us on our committee, collecting the £1 for membership, delivering paper newsletters - then contact us here and click “contact us” on the front page.
Jim Biggin, Chairman, January 2017
New sophisticated fraud that involves fraudsters sending fake bank letters
The convincing letters being sent are a replica from Lloyds (although clearly other banks could also be targeted) and include their logo, address and signature from a customer service representative. The letter tells recipients that there have been some “unusual transactions” on their personal account and asks them to call a number highlighted in bold to confirm they are genuine. The bank has confirmed that the phone number and letters are phony.
When victims call the number, an automated welcome message is played and the caller is asked to enter their card number, account number and sort code followed by their date of birth. Victims are then instructed to enter the first and last digit of their security number – at which point, if you’re not already suspicious, alarm bells should start ringing.
If you are ever suspicious about correspondence from your bank you should call the customer service number on the back of your card.
And one abusing Amazon
Action Fraud has received several reports from victims who have been sent convincing looking emails claiming to be from Amazon. The spoofed emails from “service” at “amazon.co.uk” claim recipients have made an order online for an expensive item and mimic an automatic customer email notification.
The emails cleverly state that if recipients haven’t authorised the transaction they can click on the help centre link to receive a full refund. The link leads to an authentic-looking website, which asks victims to confirm their name, address, and bank card information.
Amazon says that suspicious e-mails will often contain:
Amazon will never ask for personal information to be supplied by e-mail. You can read more about identifying suspicious emails claiming to be from Amazon by visiting this site
- Links to websites that look like Amazon.co.uk, but aren't Amazon.co.uk.
- Attachments or prompts to install software on your computer.
- Typos or grammatical errors.
- Forged (or spoofed) e-mail addresses to make it look like the e-mail is coming from Amazon.co.uk.
Council Tax 2017-18
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has decided to allow councils to bring forward a planned increase in the social care element of Council Tax, meaning DCC will be able to raise a 3% care levy in each of the next two years rather than the previous 2%. In the Commons he said that social care is the biggest cost pressure on local government at present. You should therefore budget for a 5% increase in your Council Tax
This has been DCC's biggest funding headache for some years (a situation mirrored in both Bournemouth and Poole). CBC's situation is hard to determine because it is contained within the overall DCC picture. However, given Christchurch's demographics we are highly likely to be contributing to the DCC deficit.
As we’ve said before in these newsletters, relying on a regressive taxation system like Council Tax is not a long-term solution to tackling the financial challenge our health and social care system faces. Forcing Local Authorities to merge and reorganise is part of the solution but sooner rather than later something more radical is needed that is funded by all tax payers according to their ability to pay.
More Work on the A338 Spur Road
DCC will be installing barriers and working on the verges starting on Monday, January 16, and this work will continue until Friday of that week. The work was left over from the extensive operation to improve the road surface and create an extra lane earlier this year, which could not be completed at the time because of the need to reopen the road for the summer season.
Also, Bournemouth and Dorset councils will start three further weeks of work on Monday, January 23, to make improvements to Blackwater Junction. These works are expected to cause delays.
Proposed Changes to Concessionary Bus Pass Scheme
Local residents are asked to give their views on the proposed changes to the concessionary bus pass scheme in Dorset. The six week consultation runs until 13 January, and DCC is keen to hear from people who use the scheme, or may be affected by proposed changes.
The county council currently subsidises the scheme which allows bus pass holders free concessionary travel before 9.30am on services where the next bus is not until after 10.30am. Free all day travel is also available for blind and partially sighted pass holders. The proposed changes would mean concessionary pass holders would not be able to travel free before 9.30am on weekdays. No changes are proposed for the partially sighted and blind, who would still be able to travel free any time.
Car Parking Charges in 2017
To see the latest proposals and comment on them click here
On 13th December 2016 CBC held an Extraordinary (= unplanned) Council meeting at which it passed an extraordinary (= eccentric) resolution.
It instructed the Council Leader, when meeting with Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole Councils to discuss the reorganisation of local councils, to press for some unusual demands.
In summary the resolutions put forward by CBC met with a polite but firm “no” from across Dorset.
This is hardly surprising since they were all financially and politically nonsensical. Indeed one told the Leader to negotiate to increase the CBC financial deficit rather than reduce it!
If you want to read full details click here and click on “latest updates 2016” and read the English language report “WCRA Comment and Analysis on Exploring Options for the Future of Local Government in Poole, Bournemouth and Dorset”
As a Residents Association we don’t often address the issue of Business Rates. In fact CBC collects about £18million a year from this source, which is more than Central Government thinks is necessary to fund local services. So Central Government obliges CBC to deduct £6million from the £18million collected. That £6million is then redistributed by Central Government to other Councils that it decrees need topping-up.
This is also a good time we think to remind everybody that from 2019-20The Treasury will levy a new tax on local authorities in what amounts to a negative Revenue Support Grant which will increase the funding deficit unless steps are taken to mitigate its effect by being more efficient.
Some CBC Councillors have still not grasped that it is Central Government in the shape of the Treasury that is the driving force behind all of these changes. The Price-Waterhouse-Cooper report about Dorset is a classic example of a report written by accountants for accountants. They concluded that there is a compelling case for local government reorganisation in Dorset. Their analysis showed that the proposal to replace the current nine councils with two new unitary authorities has key strengths in the areas covered by the Government’s tests and produces two unitary authorities of a size preferred by Central Government. These factors are what will guide the Minister.
Councillors should also remember that there are other benefits that will flow from the proposed reorganisation. None of Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole can on their own unlock the potential that would be contained within a single coastal authority of 385,000 people. The enhanced ability to attract both public and private investment is but one example. CBC is due to discuss the whole question again at the end of January by which time the majority of Councils in Dorset will have declared their position.
Let us hope that our Councillors have had their fill of extraordinary behaviour!