Your Residents Association Newsletter

Community Matters Special Issue February 2018

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Secretary of State Statement
What Now For Christchurch
What Happens Next
Transitional Arrangements
On 26th February 2018 the Secretary of State finally decided on the future structure of councils in Dorset.

He chose the Future Dorset plan that is backed by every other council in Dorset in preference to the last-minute alternative proposed by Christchurch Council.
He said:

“On 7 November I told the House that I was minded to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, the locally-led proposal I had received for improving local government in Dorset, and I invited representations before I took my final decision.

“Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, that locally-led proposal to replace the existing nine councils across Dorset by two new councils.

“These new councils are a single unitary council for the areas of Bournemouth, Poole, and that part of the county of Dorset currently comprising the Borough of Christchurch, and a single unitary council for the rest of the current county area.

I am satisfied that these new councils are likely to improve local government and service delivery in their areas, generating savings, increasing financial resilience, facilitating a more strategic and holistic approach to planning and housing challenges, and sustaining good local services.

I am also satisfied that across Dorset as a whole there is a good deal of local support for these new councils, and that the area of each council is a credible geography.”

All of the main councils, Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, spoke in favour. You can read what they said on our website and click on latest updates.

Bournemouth Council Leader, John Beesley's remarks are typical:

“The financial pressures presented to all top-tier councils – that is, ourselves, Borough of Poole and Dorset County – in respect of meeting the rising costs of demand-led services of adult social care and children’s services, made the existing structure of local government unsustainable.

Despite the best efforts of all councils in Dorset, the ability to squeeze value out of partnership working in its many forms has not and would not reap the financial and other benefits that will be achieved by implementing Future Dorset.

I firmly believe public services will be better protected, the economic interests of the area promoted and the quality of life of residents will be improved even further being served by a single, new unitary Council for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.”
The Christchurch Councillors who are in favour of change said:
“We want to put behind us the divisions created by this long-awaited decision and work together with our fellow Councillors to ensure a smooth transition of services into the new authority.
The opportunities the new council creates should be grasped by all Christchurch Councillors who now need to work closely with Councillors from Bournemouth and Poole to embrace the chance to deliver a future proof Council across the conurbation for all residents.

By working in partnership with our neighbours we can ensure that the things that matter most to us in Christchurch are carried forward into the new structure.

Now is the time to embrace the opportunities this brings for future generations by ensuring our voice is heard both locally and in central government to protect our Heritage, grow our economy and improve our roads and schools, this can only be achieved by working in harmony together.

Let’s stop the fighting and get on with the business we were elected to do, to get the best deal for the people of Christchurch.”
What now for Christchurch Council

Christchurch Council has reached the point where the tracks divide.
By submitting its alternative proposal Christchurch acknowledged that things can’t stay as they are.

They agreed that change is needed but failed to grasp quite how fundamental that change is going to be. In our analysis of their proposal we pointed out that they had not addressed the issue of the technology that will fundamentally alter the way in which Councils function.

The1960s saw the introduction of computers to the office environment; the 1980s the arrival of the personal computer; the 1990s the introduction of the Internet; the 2020s will see the arrival of artificial intelligence.

For some time, computer software has been able to play complex interactive games such as chess. Now it stands on the verge of invading the white-collar workplace.

Hierarchical clerical structures, born in the Victorian era and housed in large office blocks, will no longer be needed as users of council services deal direct with responsible staff who are supported by intelligent, interactive software.

Organisations that have parish councils (Hurn) under the wing of district councils (Christchurch) and all part of a county council (Dorset) will cease to exist.

Christchurch Council can now decide to withdraw its opposition to Future Dorset and to cooperate fully in implementing the inevitable. We believe that would be in the best interest of us, the tax payers. Or it can, like the Luddites, continue to oppose unavoidable change. If it were somehow to temporarily succeed the outcome would be very serious for all of us.

Consider what is happening now in Northamptonshire – a council similar in structure to Dorset. Their auditors have issued an advisory notice to Northamptonshire County Council warning that its proposed budget may be unlawful.

Each year the auditor is required to reach a conclusion as to whether an authority has made proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources. In this instance, it concluded that Northamptonshire, which faces an overspend of £21 million for 2017/18, does not have adequate arrangements in place.

You may recall that DCC overspent by £31 million in 2016/17 and is forecast to overspend again in 2017/18

Northamptonshire has been urged to convert to a unitary authority to save money currently spent supporting district councils such as Corby, Daventry and Kettering - for which read Dorset and Weymouth, Purbeck and Christchurch.

Drafting the Structural Change Order

What happens next?

Whitehall will seek to lay a draft Structural Change Order before Parliament as soon as possible, with a view to it becoming law by early June 2018.

The Structural Change Order is a Statutory Instrument (fancy name for a piece of legislation). Acts of Parliament often only provide a broad legal framework, conferring power on Ministers to make detailed decisions about applying that legislation to specific cases. Statutory Instruments are the tools by which framework legislation is applied locally.

The Structural Change Order is the first and most significant of several Statutory Instruments that will be required for reorganisation. It provides for the establishment of the new councils in 2019, sets out the interim governance arrangements (an Implementation Executive), specifies the formal name of the new council; the number of councillors and the electoral cycle of the new authority.

The Structural Change Order will be followed by several consequential Orders, covering issues like staffing, finance, assets and civic issues, which are made automatically unless there is an objection from the House.

Laying the Draft Order

Whitehall will seek the formal consent of the Councils to lay the draft Order before Parliament under the provisions of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, section 15 subsection 5 of which gives the Secretary of State power to implement change in a non-unitary district council (e.g. Christchurch) if at least one relevant local authority (e.g. DCC) consents.

The Act requires the consent of the Borough of Poole, Bournemouth Borough Council and one of the other councils. Both Dorset County Council and the largest second-tier council West Dorset will do this.
Once the councils have granted consent, Whitehall then register the draft order and lay it before Parliament. To meet subsequent deadlines, this must happen before Parliament goes into Easter recess during the period 29 March to 16 April.

Government Scrutiny and Decision-Making

The process from laying the Order to it being agreed takes approximately six weeks.

Once the draft Order is registered, it is formally considered by two scrutiny committees

Following the scrutiny process it will be considered by both Houses, Commons and Lords. Consideration is usually through committee. If it is approved by the Standing Committee, it goes straight to the Commons for a vote (and cannot be debated).

The House of Lords are expected to consider it in Grand Committee before going to the floor (where it can be debated before a vote is taken).

Whitehall hope the Order will be approved by both Houses by 30 May 2018. The Minister then signs the Order in early June and it comes into effect the next day (or on a date specified).
Transitional Arrangements
The original report by Local Partnerships estimated a conversion cost of £25 to £27 million which included a provision of £2.5 million for project management. This has been re-examined and still appears realistic.

The Finance Officers of the three councils Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole have proposed a set of principles for the apportionment of costs between themselves. We’ve looked at them and they seem equitable.

Some principles have been agreed covering the process of moving Christchurch out of Dorchester and splitting it from East Dorset.

The transfer of services from one authority to another must not disadvantage any individual that is receiving that service. This is regarded as an over-riding principle

Partners and stakeholders involved in delivering services will be fully engaged to ensure a smooth transition. Where a service is already structured as a shared service it will be left as is

The criteria for calculating the financial implications of splitting will be kept as simple as possible

A major factor as far as Council Tax payers are concerned will be the harmonisation of Council Tax rates. It is proposed that Council Tax payers in Christchurch will have their Council Tax frozen or even reduced until rates have been harmonised.

A Shadow Authority will be established as a means for preparing for the new council. This Shadow Authority will not have any executive responsibilities in relation to the operation of the existing councils.
The membership of the Shadow Authority will be all existing members of the councils of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.  This is a membership of 120 comprising 54 Members from Bournemouth, 42 from Poole and 24 from Christchurch.
The Executive Committee of the Shadow Authority will comprise 8 members from Bournemouth, 6 members from Poole and 2 members from Christchurch, 16 in all.
New Electoral Arrangements for May 2019
The interim name of the new authority will be Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. A name that better lends itself to marketing requirements will almost certainly be used for the new unitary authority
Whitehall has stated that it anticipates the number of Councillors in the new unitary will be based upon the Future Dorset proposal - which was 76 Councillors
The key driver in considering options is the need to maximise electoral equality. This means that the aim is to ensure the number of electors per councillor in each ward deviates from the average by as small a percentage as possible.   
The opportunity has therefore been taken to merge wards in Canford Heath, Branksome and Hamworthy to ensure that electoral equality is maximised. This gives a structure of 36 Wards (Christchurch 5; Bournemouth 18; Poole 13)
Currently the three areas Christchurch-Bournemouth-Poole have 101 Councillors: Dorset Councillors from Christchurch 5; Bournemouth 54; Poole 42; making 101 in total.  The proposal for the new unitary is: Christchurch 10 (up 5); Bournemouth 37 (down 17); Poole 29 (down 13); making 76 in all 
The option proposed complies with statutory guidance and is a more positive position in terms of electoral equality than exists currently.
We will keep you abreast of future developments in our newsletters
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

We are run by a committee of volunteers and a team of helpers who give their time free of charge in an effort to protect the environment that we all enjoy whilst living in this beautiful area
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