Your Residents Association Newsletter

Community Matters Issue 5 - October 2017

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A date for your diary
NHS Reorganization
All about children
Quality of Council Services
Christchurch Council wins award
Business Rates
Happy Anniversary
A suggestion for our Councillors
A Date for your Diary
Across Dorset our road system is underfunded. Locally we have spots where accidents occur on a regular basis. 
Traffic jams on the B3073 Hurn Road-Fairmile Road-Bargates are a daily event.  (Don’t forget by the way that Fairmile at its junction with Albion will be closed overnight from 16th to 20th October).

However, some improvements are underway and more are planned. Things have progressed well over the summer and DCC have finished the road widening and new cycleway/footway on the southwest corner of Chapel Gate Roundabout. That work included improving the existing drainage and digging new drainage channels.

On Thursday 26th October at 7.30pm in The Hall on the Hill, Marlow Drive, West Christchurch, DCC Officers will give a presentation on what is now planned for our local road system.  Come along and listen and then ask them any pertinent questions.

We received an e-mail from a local resident concerning the latest phone scam:


I have received a phone call telling me I am part of an investigation into a big fraud.

The message is pre-recorded and the voice has a slight foreign accent! I decided to listen and am glad I did as further on they gave a number to phone and even a name of someone to speak to!

What gave it all away entirely was the mispronunciation of the word "soon" as "so on" and at the end they wished me " a blessed day".

You must keep your wits about you!

Plans to reorganise NHS hospital services in Dorset have been agreed by Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group 

Their aim is to solve a projected funding shortfall of £158m by 2021.

Under the plans, Poole Hospital will lose its A&E, maternity and paediatric services to Bournemouth, which will become the main emergency hospital. Poole will be the centre for planned treatment and operations.

The two trusts have again announced proposals to merge, potentially as soon as next year. That is four years after similar plans were blocked on the basis they would damage patient interests.

Those failed negotiations cost the NHS £5 million. Both trusts now claim that operating the new cost-saving model as two separate organizations would be extremely difficult. Watch out for some sort of public consultation.
DCC have issued some information concerning children

If your child is due to start secondary or upper school in September 2018, you must register and apply for their school place by 31 October 2017.

You are advised to list 3 preferred schools on your application. If your child is due to start primary, junior or middle school in 2018 they have until 15 January 2018 to apply. Full details on Dorset-For-You

The 30 hours free childcare offer is now available for eligible working families with 3 and 4-year-old children.

If you have applied or are already claiming your 30 hours free childcare, you will need to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. Check whether you are eligible and see the recommended application dates

Last month we told you about the escalating costs of children that are in the care of local authorities like DCC.

In a report recently published DCC confirms that the overspend in Children’s Services will not be resolved in tax year 2017-18.

The budget overspend has increased from £4 million to £7 million. The Chief Finance Officer has confirmed that the original budget assumed a decrease in children in care and that such an assumption did not reflect reality.

At the end of September, DCC announced that our fostering service is set to undergo a multi-million-pound modernization to create a more efficient and effective service.

A review of the county council’s fostering system revealed that significant improvements are needed to halt the increased use of Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA).

This chimes with two e-mails that we received from our members who are experienced foster carers.

Carer A: as a foster carer for teenagers in our area, I'm not surprised that the budget for childcare has gone through the roof. Many carers like myself work for IFA. We take the more difficult cases that local authorities find hard to place, often with special educational needs.

I was shocked recently to discover that our foster agency is getting the same amount of money per child as the carers.  Of course, they have some overheads but they also have shareholders.

A report commissioned by DCC highlighted the increase in the numbers of children in care. It raised concerns that using IFAs can result in poorer outcomes as children are placed further from home and such placements can cost up to £19,000 more each year than an in-house council service.

DCC approved the fostering modernization plan and agreed to funding of £365,000 in the financial year 2018-19 followed by £1.2m in 2019-20 and £1.3m beyond that on an ongoing basis each year.

There is an inbuilt, unstated, assumption in that statement – namely that DCC has the funds to spare given that it habitually spends more than it takes in. We think it is assuming some savings resulting from presumed Local Authority reorganization in Dorset.

Carer B: part of the problem arose from a poor retention of new carers. The authority thought it had a recruitment problem but that was a faulty diagnosis. They were simply dreadful at retaining people it had cost a fortune to recruit and train in the basics.

The modernization plans, which will come into effect immediately, will focus on recruitment and retention, simplified fees and allowances schemes, and having specialist foster carers available to deal with complex needs.

Research conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies looked at surveys from the Local Government Information Unit to get a clear picture of local government’s views on how funding cuts have affected the quality of services.

Though 89% of respondents said service quality was maintained in 2016-17, many councils reported they are not confident that this could be sustained in the future.

They predict that if no corrective action is taken councils across the country will be facing a combined annual funding gap of £2.3bn by 2020. DCC is currently projecting a budget gap of £16 million in 2019-20.

The Red Cross has also recently argued that councils are falling short of their obligations set out in the Care Act 2014 to “prevent, reduce or delay the need for care.”

Just one council in three said they were confident that significant reductions in quality could be avoided over the next three years, with the figure falling to one in six over the next five years.

And respondents from ‘upper-tier’ councils like DCC with responsibility for social care stated that they were even less confident of services continuing to run smoothly.

Three quarters of these respondents said that cuts to budgets would be apparent to the public in 2017-18 as service quality dropped due to a lack of funds.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has recognised our local councils at their recent award ceremony.

Christchurch and East Dorset successfully saw off fierce competition from the likes of Sky to win the award for Best Change Management Initiative at the awards held on 26 September. The judges were unanimous in their decision that this was the outstanding entry in the category and the overall winner.

Speaking about the Councils’ move to “smarter working” the CIPD Award judges said: “This is a really exciting initiative. It’s great to see customers at the centre of the project design which has produced such strong results.”

By “working smarter” the partnership can save tax payer’s money. Smarter working has seen amongst other things the introduction of flexible hours, remote working and a digital mailroom.

We’ve been following CBC’s efforts to close its funding gap by utilising the portion of the Business Rates that Central Government allow it to keep. 

We asked David Barnes, Strategic Director, for an update. Here’s what he told us: 

Approximately 3 years ago CBC stepped up its efforts to support the growth of the local Economy.

We recognised that we could do more and in addition, Central Government was offering incentives for growth whilst at the same time withdrawing funding by way of grants.

There was no room to increase Council Tax and it was not sensible to increase other fees and charges excessively, so helping to encourage business growth and hence our income from business rates seemed sensible. 

Whilst we saw this as a worthwhile endeavour we also recognized that there was a certain amount of risk involved and no guarantee of a positive outcome.

We sensibly put in place a well-researched Growth Plan with a focus on listening to and working with the business community.

Three years later our income from business rates (our comment: what Central Government allow CBC to keep and use) has doubled from £800k to £1.6m which has helped to fill the funding gap caused by the Government’s withdrawal of direct funding.

The Government haven’t exactly rewarded Councils for their positive performance. We can keep only a small percentage of the £19.4 million we collect and passes over to Government.

Also, the Government frequently changes the rules. The latest change is described as a “tariff adjustment” which means that in 2019-20 we will hand over a further £375k of our share of business rates income to the Treasury (our comment: see our newsletters of September 2016 and January 2017 where we called it a hidden tax)

Although Business Rates are important to the Council the benefits to the Community are of greater importance: more and better jobs for younger people; higher wages to help make Housing more affordable; and more wealth created to support communities through general taxation.  Such factors make supporting the Economy a key priority in Christchurch. 

Our congratulations and thanks to Dave Barnes and his team. As regular readers already know, 89% of businesses in Dorset are in favour of local authority reorganization and the creation of just two unitary authorities.

It’s two years since we first learned of outline plans to reorganize local government in Dorset.
 From an initial reaction of distrust, we have climbed a very steep learning curve to the point where we understand the need and can see only one viable solution to a thorny problem.

The issue for us is no longer “do you like or dislike a Christchurch-Bournemouth-Poole solution”, it’s “can you articulate anything different, prove it’s better and demonstrate pan-Dorset support for it”.

Sadly, two years later, we still hear myths being perpetuated.  We think the biggest myth “Bournemouth is taking over Christchurch” has faded somewhat whilst “Christchurch will have all its assets stolen” is also demonstrably untrue.

Regeneration proposals that will help build 5,000 new homes in Poole at Holes Bay (where the power station used to be) have recently been announced. Why are we telling you this? Because we still hear people say that the main reason behind local government reorganization is a “land grab” of Christchurch land. There’s nothing quite like fact to dispel a myth.

We continue to wait for Central Government to act, ever mindful of a projected £16 million DCC funding shortfall. On 25th September some leaders of Dorset’s Councils held talks with the Secretary of State for Local Government Sajid Javid. Christchurch did not attend.

We have a suggestion for our Councillors.

We have established that Salisbury is a City Council within the Unitary Authority of Wiltshire. We see no reason why Christchurch shouldn’t be a Town Council within the Christchurch-Bournemouth-Poole Unitary.

In addition to delegated powers like Salisbury it could be responsible for a Christchurch Area Planning Board. This arrangement could be financed out of the 11% of Council Tax that is currently retained in Christchurch rather than being passed on to Dorchester

The City Council would help to preserve the identity of Christchurch and could continue the tradition of appointing a Mayor if that was felt to be appropriate.

The Unitary would open the door to joined-up planning and representation when seeking investment for Christchurch-Bournemouth-Poole.

Our combined population is close to 400,000. We urgently need to look beyond the tactical and to create a strategic vision of our future development. We need goals that will include the major long-term social and economic benefits that will flow from a new ability to plan and service our conurbation’s economy as a single entity
Community Matters is produced and edited by a team of local residents who try to present you with the facts that will both keep you informed and enable you to make up your own mind on local issues
Jumpers and St Catherine's Hill RA
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