That Was The Week That Was
Over the course of the last week in January all nine of Dorset’s Councils voted on whether to replace the current structure with two new unitary authorities: Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole forming an urban one; the rural councils coming together to form the second.
Of the nine Councils, three are more important than the others - Dorset as County Council, and the two Unitary Councils Bournemouth and Poole. They all voted in favour of change.
Councillor Robert Gould, Leader of DCC said:
"This is absolutely the right decision for Dorset County Council to have made. The final decision lies with the Secretary of State, but Dorset County Councillors have made an historic decision today which will help protect the frontline services and is in the best interests of all our residents."
Councillor Janet Walton, Leader of the Borough of Poole, said:
"There is a compelling case for changing local government structures in Dorset. The evidence from the public consultation showed there was clear support from residents, businesses and other stakeholders for moving to two councils.
There was also a clear public preference for one council serving the conurbation of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch and with the other serving the rest of Dorset. I firmly believe this option represents the best opportunity to reduce costs, improve public services and enhance the quality of life and prospects of our residents."
And here’s what Matt Prosser, Chairman of the Dorset Chief Executives Group, said:
“We are passionate about the Dorset of the future. We are collectively committed to doing the right thing for our residents and for the whole of the county – to protect services, to raise Dorset’s profile, to grow the economy, and to generate prosperity and an enhanced lifestyle for all those who live here.
“All the evidence shows that this proposal will do that and more.
The largest of the second-tier rural Councils, West Dorset, voted in favour and they were joined by North Dorset, Weymouth and Portland. That meant that representatives of over 75% of Dorset’s residents voted in favour of development.
East Dorset, Purbeck District Council and Christchurch Borough Council, voted against the plans and by so doing isolated themselves from the rest of Dorset.
Of our local West Christchurch Councillors, only Sue Spittle voted in favour of moving forward. Colin Bungey, Fred Neale and Margaret Phipps all voted for “no change”.
For those of you who take our newsletter but are not in West Christchurch, the other Councillors voting for progress were: Cllr Bath; Cllr Davis; Cllr Fox; Cllr Hallam; Cllr Nottage; Cllr Smith; Cllr Watts.
Those voting for “no change” were: Cllr Abbott; Cllr Dedman; Cllr Flagg; Cllr Grace; Cllr Geary; Cllr Hall; Cllr Jamison; Cllr Jamieson; Cllr Mrs D Jones; Cllr D Jones; Cllr Lofts.
We Have a Problem Houston
This presented us with a problem. We have been tracking this process very closely since October 2015 and learning a great deal along the way. If you're new to this or want to refresh your memory go to our website and read the Newsletters throughout 2016
We had concluded some time ago that the process has two interlinked aspects – political and economic. It is being driven by a Minister who has clear political objectives and The Treasury whose economic objective is to reduce the national debt. Hence, the funding of Local Government by Central Government has reduced by over 35% since 2010 and that trend will continue.
All the research and work that we had done over the last year told us that Robert Gould, Janet Walton and Matt Prosser are correct in what they say.
We also knew that Dorset Council leaders were due to meet to discuss the situation and we decided to write to Council Leader, Councillor Robert Gould on your behalf expressing our concerns. Here’s what we said:
We understand that you will be meeting with Council Leaders to discuss the outcome of the various recent Council meetings held across Dorset. We believe your objective is the submission of appropriate plans to the Secretary of State drawn up by the six Councils who see this proposed reorganisation as an opportunity and are in favour of moving ahead.
We are writing to you on behalf of our 3,000 tax paying members because we unequivocally believe that the majority decision to “do nothing” taken by Christchurch Council is not in the best interest of those taxpayers.
For these reasons, we urge you and the Leaders of Bournemouth, Poole, North Dorset, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland (who together account for more than 75% of Dorset’s population) to act in the best interest of our tax payers and indeed all Dorset’s tax payers and press ahead with a submission to the Secretary of State of the two-unitary plan that received such widespread public and business backing.
- First, the decision isolates Christchurch from its most important and influential neighbours, Bournemouth and Poole. That decision makes no sense for a Council as small as Christchurch and we see it as strategically inept.
- Second, it flies in the face of known Central Government preferences to deal with a small number of reasonably large Unitary Authorities. The proposed solution of Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole as one such unitary and East Dorset-North Dorset-West Dorset-Weymouth-Portland-Purbeck as the other meets Central Government criteria. In this respect the decision by Christchurch Council puzzles us deeply.
- Third, it ignores the projected budget deficits that exist across the Councils of Dorset caused predominantly by deliberate Government action designed to force this type of reorganisation. In that respect the Christchurch Council decision strikes us as irresponsible,
- Fourth, the Christchurch Council decision is contrary to public opinion as demonstrated in the Dorset-wide independent survey.
- Fifth, it is not in tune with business opinion and is thus not conducive to encouraging the inward investment to the area that will be so important in the years ahead.
Here's the reply we received:
I am very grateful for this message of support from the West Christchurch Residents’ Association. I know that that you have a very wide and representative membership and it is very encouraging to have your support as we prepare to make a submission to government.
Your letter clearly sets out the reasons why we need to implement the changes set out in option 2b and there are many others too. Although Christchurch Borough Council did not support the proposals for change, I am convinced that they enjoy widespread support from our residents, businesses and other public service providers. Having consulted our residents, we would be wrong to ignore their clearly expressed views.
I will continue to do all I can to make progress with these changes.
At their meeting the Leaders of the six councils that voted for change decided to move things forward and have written to the Minister. They have launched a new website which is worth a visit
As some of the major criteria in support of their proposal they cite:
- Six of Dorset’s Councils back this proposal, with 75% of voting Councillors in favour
- 73% of residents support change
- 65% of residents support the proposed geographical composition
- 89% of businesses support the change
- The Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership support the change
- £108million of savings projected in the first six years
- Evidence that all Government criteria are met
- Health and local authority planning and delivery boundaries are aligned
- No viable alternative has been suggested let alone tested
If the Secretary of State agrees and the change is approved by Parliament decision-making bodies will be appointed to determine the structure, budget and service delivery model of each new council.
It is not clear at this stage quite what role Christchurch representatives will eventually play in this process. What is clear is that most of our Councillors have by their actions isolated Christchurch from the key initial stages of this vital development.
Solve the Vegetable Shortage
We have a message from the Secretary of the Rutland Road allotments:
Allotments come in two sizes generally known as 5 & 10 rods. 5 rods are about 65 square metres and 10 are 130 square meters. You can only apply for a 5-rods plot to start with but can apply for a further 5 after one year on the site.
We invite any Christchurch resident to apply for an allotment at the Rutland Road site by requesting an application form from myself Nikki Wells telephone 07792-114-162 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also collect an application from the site 'shop' on a Sunday morning 10-12. More information available on application.
You will need to devote at least 3-5 hours per week to work the allotment and the current annual rent for a 5-rod plot is £33.75 pa payable to Christchurch Borough Council. Come and look on a Sunday morning to meet your local allotment community.
Supporting Friends of St Catherine’s Hill
We were asked to support a Lottery Fund bid by Friends of St Catherine's Hill to showcase the role played by residents and St Catherine's Hill in the Great War. Here’s what we said:
We are pleased to support this application on behalf of the local community. We have been associated with Friends since its inception and have followed closely the development of the very successful and popular History Day.
As we remember the centenary of Ypres and the Somme we are conscious that our generation is the last that through our grandparents had real contact with those who fought in and survived those terrible times. There is a continuing need to ensure that the younger generations have an appreciation and understanding of what was involved.
We trust that the bid will be successful and will be pleased to help in any way that we can.
There will be a training session for use of the new defibrillator that we have helped to provide at the Hall on the Hill. It will take place on Wednesday 15th February between 4.30pm and 6.00pm and then again 7.30pm to 9.00pm. Training is given free of charge as a service to the community and will last for 1.5 hours. Everyone is welcome, but please let John Spittle know by phone, text or E Mail which session you can attend. Telephone 07713-740-628 / 01202-484-623; E Mail email@example.com
Mind How You Go
During 2015 driving whilst using a mobile phone was a contributory factor in the death or serious injury of 97 people on our roads countrywide. It has been illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device while driving or riding a motorcycle since December 2003. However, many motorists still fail to see that it is not possible to use a phone and be in proper control of a vehicle.
Dorset Police organised a week-long crackdown on people using their mobile phones while driving. 91 fixed penalty notices were issued. The campaign ran from Monday 23 January to Sunday 29 January 2017 with offenders being reminded of the dangers of being distracted at the wheel and the impending legislative changes regarding the use of mobile phones.
Motorists caught using a mobile phone at the wheel are currently given three penalty points and a fine of £100. This is set to double under the new rules which are anticipated to come into effect on 1 March 2017. The changes will have a significant impact on new motorists who must retake their test if caught within two years of obtaining their licence. More experienced drivers also risk prosecution if caught twice, with a possible fine of up to £1,000 and at least a six-month driving ban.
Potentially Free Child Care
Working parents in Dorset may be eligible for up to 30 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds five months before it’s rolled out nationally in September. Childcare in the Dorset County Council area has been chosen by the Government to test the offer earlier. This could save working parents around £5,000 per year.
DCC are working with nurseries, pre-schools, after-school clubs and childminders to begin offering the 30 hours of free childcare places to all eligible families from April, effectively doubling the existing 15 hours currently available for all parents. Children must be 3 or 4 years old by 31st March 2017 to be eligible from April. There are other eligibility criteria and the early offer is only available for registered childcare in the Dorset County Council area, which doesn’t include childcare in Bournemouth and Poole; these areas will offer it from September.
Dorset parents eligible for 30 hours of free childcare will also be the first who can apply for Tax Free Childcare, another Government scheme to help parents pay for childcare. You can apply for all your children aged up to 12 years (17 if the child has a disability). See article below.
You can check eligibility and express an interest in applying for 30 hours of free childcare here
We’re gearing up earlier than usual. The necessary printing has been completed and collecting rounds have been allocated by our new lady in charge, Sue Fotheringham. This is her second year in charge and it’s never too late to offer to help her. You can reach her on 01202-960-086 or firstname.lastname@example.org