Marsh Lane School; A338 Developments; Council Reorganisation

West Christchurch Newsletter

March 2017

Marsh Lane School
DCC can now start building the new Twynham Primary School following its purchase of the Marsh Lane site from South West Water, owners of Bournemouth Water.  The school is currently based in temporary accommodation within the Twynham School site.
Contractors Morgan Sindall will begin initial works clearing vegetation. From Monday 20 March 2017 they are due to start creating the access road to the new site – including drainage and utility connections for the new school – and building boundary walls next to adjacent properties. 
The main building work is expected to start in late May 2017. The overall project, including related highway works, is set to be completed by June 2018.
As the building will not be ready until next year, DCC will provide extra accommodation on the Twynham School site this summer to enable the primary school to accommodate the reception intake of another 30 pupils this September.
DCC Cllr Margaret Phipps said: “This is really good news for the children who are currently in temporary school accommodation. This new school is essential not only for them, but for future children in west Christchurch.”
A338 Spur Road Exhibitions
The next phase of improvements to the Spur Road will start autumn 2017 and include: changes to B3073 Hurn Road intersection; a new slip road into the hospital; a possible widening of the road between the Hurn intersection and the Cooper Dean
If you want to see what the A338 is going to look like, DCC have organised a mobile exhibition. Local ones will be open for viewing between 2-8pm with Council Officers available between 4-7pm as follows:
Tuesday 14 & Wednesday 15 March: Hurn Sports Club, Avon Causeway, Hurn BH23 6DY

Wednesday 22nd March: Holdenhurst Village Hall, Holdenhurst Village Road, Bournemouth BH8 0EF

More Government Investment for Dorset
With plans to restructure Dorset Local Authorities along approved government guidelines sitting in his in-tray, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced a government investment of £19.5 million for Dorset to help create jobs, support businesses and encourage growth. This latest award of Local Growth Funding is on top of £79 million of funding already awarded to Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.
The £12 billion Local Growth Fund provides local leaders with the cash they need to support locally determined projects.  Under the fund, England’s 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships – made up of council leaders and business representatives – bid for investments based on local priorities.
Bids are highly competitive and to be successful, Local Enterprise Partnerships need to work with partners to agree strong and accountable governance and put forward proposals that boost growth and bring in private sector funding.
Gordon Page, Chairman of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership said:
We submitted an ambitious business plan to accelerate economic growth across Dorset and are pleased to have been awarded £19.5 million to deliver a range of projects to fuel long-term growth across the county. This vote of confidence by the Government reflects our county’s economic potential and firmly places Dorset on the world map as an outstanding place to do business.”
In Dorset, this has already supported the major rebuild of the A338 Bournemouth Spur Road. Now this latest award will help do even more.  New local projects include:
  • Work to increase international investment in, and business at, the ground-breaking Orthopaedic Research Institute at Bournemouth University;
  • Wallisdown Connectivity, a significant upgrade to the major Bournemouth-Poole commuter road which connects the two University Campuses to Poole, and suffers from congestion at peak times;
  • Transforming the Lansdowne area of Bournemouth into a major new business district through a package of infrastructure improvements
We noted that in North Dorset, Gillingham has secured £3.45m from the Government for roads infrastructure to support new homes and jobs. It is of course entirely coincidental that North Dorset voted in favour of the two-unitary approach to Council reorganisation.

Reaction to the February Newsletter

All our newsletters give rise to comment from our members. Following our February Newsletter, we received only a small number of complaints, compliments and comments in about equal measure. The points raised by our members are however important and we thought the best way to bring them to you is by reproducing a composite answer to the main complaints.

Hello and thank you for getting in touch. A lot of our members contact us in this way and we very much value hearing your opinion.
A great deal of thought and effort goes into producing the newsletters by a team of residents who strive to be both balanced and factual. You might be interested in this quote received from the Chief Executive of a local employer following the February 2017 Newsletter:
Your monthly analysis has become increasingly important in correcting the misinformation that is being widely promulgated by the few. I can only thank you for your efforts.
Turning to your e-mail
Derogatory Comments
The newsletter arrived via email with the derogatory heading ‘Irresponsible Councillors Isolate Christchurch’.
The heading is only derogatory if untrue. As you read our newsletters you will be aware from the January 2017 edition of the special motion passed by majority at CBC Council of 13th December 2016. To save you looking it up, here’s an extract:

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!
We regard that as irresponsible. Perhaps you don’t but we think you are in a very small minority.
In January 2017, our Councillors voted down the opportunity to join with the large majority of Dorset and participate in the talks about reorganisation. Of the nine Dorset 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. 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.
In effect, our Councillors by majority vote isolated tiny Christchurch (6% of Dorset’s population) from all the main centres of influence.
Personal opinion as against majority opinion
I wish to point out that, as member of this Association, I do not align myself with your thoughts and opinions although you have purported to represent me and 2,999 other householders in this area of Christchurch.  I feel very strongly that, on this occasion, WCRA has overstepped the mark. 
I support the decision of 3 of the 4 West Christchurch duly elected Councillors who voted against the change and I am sure I am not alone in feeling misrepresented by WCRA who has blatantly sent an ill-considered letter to Councillor Robert Gould in support of his bid to form 2 Unitary Authorities in Dorset.   I understand that this bid, with enclosures, has now been forwarded to the Secretary of State. 
That of course is your prerogative. Following our February Newsletter, we have received a small number of complaints that we have written to DCC Cllr Robert Gould urging DCC to continue with its submission to the Secretary of State despite CBC Councillors voting us out of the process. We did not, we were told, speak for the objectors. This didn’t surprise us unduly since we never pretend to speak on behalf of individuals, only on behalf of the large majority of our collective membership.

From the public consultation carried out by independent consultants, the results of which do not just cover Christchurch, but all of Dorset we know that most residents agree with the proposed restructuring. This consultation is the main reference for us, regardless of anybody’s personal views. From the same consultation, we know importantly that business across Dorset is also fully behind the proposed reorganisation. People who object, no matter how loudly, are in a minority.

To try to carry out a separate consultation of our members would be impractical and costly.  Some organisations can contain their membership in a local hall. We can’t. Writing to everybody would entail printing and posting 3,000 letters at a cost of around £2,000 and we can’t afford that. Instead we rely upon feedback from talking to people on the doorstep when we collect the £1 subs, responses to our newsletters (such as yours and the others quoted here) and of course properly conducted opinion surveys.

No suggested alternative

If the Minister accepts this proposal, Christchurch could be forced to join a Unitary Authority with Bournemouth and Poole, against its will, so this is a very serious matter.
You say “against its will” when what you mean is against the will of a minority of its residents and a group of Councillors who could have an alternative agenda, which we will return to.
You fail to mention another very serious matter – the projected funding deficits that every Council in Dorset is struggling with combined with the changes to Government funding that are exacerbating these problems. The proposed restructuring will go a long way towards removing those deficits. Given that you are against the restructuring, what alternative proposal do you have to offer your fellow tax payers that will solve this problem? To write as you have you must have given your alternative solution a great deal of thought. Please, if you send us your written and costed proposal we will give it circulation.
Why no referendum
The only fair way to test public opinion is a referendum
That’s not so. Apart from a high cost, there are two huge problems with referenda. The first is turnout and Local Authority referenda have a poor record in that respect, some with turnouts of less than 2%. This is made worse by the 2% not being a statistically sound sample as it tends to over represent those with a keen interest and to under represent the silent majority.
The second is that a referendum enables only one question to be asked when what is required is a broader assessment of public opinion. To that end a properly conducted, statistically sound, survey of public opinion as that undertaken in Dorset is a far better guide.
If you want to gain a deeper understanding of how sampling works and our assessment of the Dorset Survey, then read our non-technical report on the matter which is on our website  along with a great deal of other background material.
A broader perspective

We continue to believe that most of our members are more interested in the level of council tax that they pay and what they get for their money than in the council structures that lay behind it. Consider this quotation from the public survey:

Five of the nine representatives of Dorset’s largest employers interact with three or more local authorities across Dorset and all commented on the duplication, bureaucracy, inconsistency and inefficiency they have encountered. Therefore, the reduction in councils was supported on the grounds of consolidation, simplification and efficiency. There was also support for larger, more regional-style councils because these would be less insular in outlook and would take a wider, less provincial outlook on issues such as infrastructure and economic development.

Like them, we believe that the proposed restructuring is the best plan on offer – one that will lead to our council tax continuing to secure high quality services and that is in the interest of all our members.

Member’s comments

Most of the comments we received from members are interesting. You will recall that earlier we mentioned a possible alternative agenda for some of our Councillors:

I am one of the residents who does not want a merger but feel it is being imposed.  I think it will be an uphill battle to get it run sensibly, so many Councillors will want to keep their little nests.  Time moves on and we need new dynamic Councillors but whether we will get them is another matter.  They all feel they know best and we just pay the bill

I am sure that the only way to make this a success is to save money.   They say turkeys do not vote for Christmas!   Now is the time for Councillors to put the Council Taxpayers first and show them that they can run this operation.  Anyone who has not got the business acumen to understand how important this is should step down immediately.

And another member (one of several along similar lines):

Thank you so very much for all your excellent efforts, particularly re the most recent newsletter.
As a result, I am so much better informed and hugely appreciative of all the (unpaid) work you put in.

Finally, from a Dorset MP who lives in Dorset:

Your analysis is incredibly useful. Thank you

Once again thank you for contacting us. We trust we have not just responded to your concerns but perhaps given you a wider perspective. Remember, unlike some others we have no axe to grind. Our sole concern is the future of Council services in Dorset, how they are paid for and the quality of their delivery to you.

The Cancelled Autumn 2016 Meeting

It’s been brought to our attention that certain people have been suggesting to anybody who will listen that we had some hidden motive for cancelling our public meeting scheduled for September 2016. 

We held a meeting in Spring 2016 at which Cllr Bungey took full advantage to air his views - it was clear even then that he would not be taking much notice of the public consultation. After the meeting, we received some complaints that he had used us as a political platform and members do not expect that at our meetings.
We had booked the hall to hold a meeting in the Autumn but unfortunately the timetable for the public consultation slipped which meant that our reserved October date now fell within the period of purdah during which councillors and officers are not allowed to express personal points of view. They must at least preserve the pretence of being open minded (known as the Gunning Principles).
We were advised that CBC Officers and others would not wish to risk appearing. Also, that Cllr Bungey, who had already sent out e-mails that demonstrated he was not open minded to change, might in the heat of the moment say things that would rule him out of future participation in the process. Whilst we don't agree with his views we think it important that he is free to express them and did not wish, however unwittingly, to be the cause of his exclusion.
For these reasons, we reluctantly cancelled the meeting.
A Date for Your Diary
Our next public meeting is on Thursday 20th April 2017 at 7.30pm at The Hall on the Hill, Marlow Drive, when Tony Spotswood, Chief Executive of Royal Bournemouth NHS Trust will talk to us about the massive changes that are planned locally including all the hospitals and the merging of doctor’s surgeries.
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West Christchurch Residents Association
7 Hurn Road
Christchurch, England BH23 2RJ
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