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Your Residents Association Newsletter

Community Matters - June 2018

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights
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News from Westminster
The New Shadow Authorities
Council Tax Harmonisation
DCC and LOBO Loans
CBC Judicial Review
New Proposed Parishes

Our e-mail newsletter was launched to 40 trial members in autumn 2010 and then switched to Mailchimp in April 2011. 
All ran smoothly until a year ago when, following an attempt to close us down, we were forced to change our name to Jumpers and St Catherine’s Hill Residents Association and a new newsletter Community Matters was born.

A year later it is distributed to over 1,600 e-mail addresses of which about 1,400 are in Christchurch with the remainder in Bournemouth, East Dorset, Poole and various overseas locations.

The last 12 months have been busy, and we thank our panel of residents, who vet the draft newsletters before they are issued, for their demanding work.
News from Westminster - Funding to fight homelessness
83 areas will share £30 million to boost the immediate support available to people living on the streets and help them into accommodation according to Housing Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP. Our area will receive £387,500.

Councils across England with the highest numbers of rough sleepers will receive a share of this funding to significantly increase the support they are able to offer people now and those at risk this coming winter.

Funding will be used to provide bed spaces for rough sleepers and to help improve the co-ordination of services available to those in need and at risk. Councils will be supported by the government’s new Rough Sleeping Initiative Team consisting of experts from the sector with a proven track record of successfully helping rough sleepers and preventing those at risk from becoming homeless.

Next month the government will publish its long-term Rough Sleeping Strategy that has been developed in partnership with charities and local government. It will set out a comprehensive plan to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it entirely by 2027 by ensuring those sleeping rough have appropriate routes away from the streets – and prevent them from sleeping rough in the first place.

News from Westminster - Sir Christopher ChopeMP

Our local MP has used a parliamentary device to block a bill designed to make up-skirting a criminal offence.

Currently there is no law specifically naming and banning up-skirting in England and Wales although it has been an offence in Scotland since 2010 when it was listed under the broadened definition of voyeurism. In the blocked bill, as well as carrying a maximum two-year prison sentence, conviction would also have allowed the most serious offenders to be placed on the sex offenders register

In addition to the up-skirting bill, Sir Christopher Chope has previously blocked bills designed to:

  • Pardon war hero Alan Turing (which was supported by The Queen);
  • Protect wild animals used in circus performances;
  • Provide free hospital car parking for carers;
  • Make it a specific criminal offence to attack police dogs and horses.

Theresa May said she was disappointed by his action and wants to see a bill that will make up-skirting a criminal offence pass through Parliament. Dawn Butler, Labour's shadow minister for women and equalities, said it was absolutely disgusting that the bill had been blocked.

His action was met with shouts of "shame" from other MPs whilst local colleagues such as Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) and Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) made known their disapproval.

A new law making ‘up-skirting’ a specific criminal offence moved a step closer when a Government Bill was introduced in Parliament on 21st June.

News from Westminster - Future Dorset

Immediately after legislation was passed to reorganise both East Sussex Councils and West Sussex Councils, similar legislation for Dorset was passed in both Houses of Parliament.

That means Dorset residents will be served by two brand new unitary councils from April 2019 – Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, and Rural Dorset Council.  The county’s nine current councils will all cease to exist on 31st March 2019.

The Leaders of the eight councils who have consented to local government reform have wholeheartedly welcomed the news. In a joint statement they said:

This is an historic day for local government in our county, and we are exceptionally proud to have reached this significant milestone. 

 “Both new councils will serve around 400,000 residents, putting them within the twenty largest local authorities in the country.  It is the immense opportunity that this strength of position gives us at a national level that is the most exciting benefit of all. 

These two new councils will have a stronger, co-ordinated voice when bidding for Government funding and investment for things like road improvements, housing, schools and economic regeneration; the things that benefit an area for all those living within it.”
The New Shadow Authorities
Once the legislation had been approved by both houses of Parliament the two Dorset Joint Committees, set up to make the local decisions needed to ensure the Parliamentary process could complete, were disbanded and replaced by two Shadow Authorities – one for each new council area. 

The Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Shadow Authority is made up of 125 seats, filled by all existing 120 Councillors from the three authorities including 5 councillors with 2 votes each who are both Borough and County Councillors for Christchurch.  70% of the councillors are Conservatives.

The first meeting took place on 6th June at Bournemouth University. This meeting and its twin in Dorchester the following day for the Rural Dorset Council made a compelling statement. The fact that elected councillors from across Dorset met and endorsed the constitutions for two new councils under powers approved by both houses of Parliament was a powerful demonstration of democratic choice.

At the start of the local meeting, CBC Leader, Councillor Flagg, read a prepared statement and then walked out with those of his colleagues who oppose the merger. The Christchurch councillors who support the formation of the new unitary authority remained to represent us and participated in the meeting that followed.

The former leader of Christchurch Council, Councillor Ray Nottage, was appointed chairman of the Shadow Authority and statutory officers such as a chief finance officer were put in place. A Shadow Executive Committee to oversee the implementation plans for the new council was created. 

Because of the order that has been passed by both the Commons and the Lords, there is a statutory duty upon CBC to co-operate with the Shadow Authority. For example, at a meeting early next year, the Shadow Authority will be responsible for setting the first budget of the new unitary council.

However, Cllr Flagg said that he would not attend any further meetings of the Shadow Authority until the judicial review has been resolved. He stated that there would be a potential conflict of interest should a Christchurch Councillor be elected to any position on the Shadow Authority.

We don’t quite follow that logic. For this group to walk away when they have previously complained about their lack of representation on the various committees is strange to say the least. Also, the Shadow Authorities are not involved in ongoing day to day operations, as these functions remain the responsibility of the nine councils that currently exist until they transfer to the two new unitary councils in April next year.

Down in Dorchester the atmosphere was far more constructive and steady progress was made.
Council Tax Harmonisation

This is the process of making council tax rates the same across Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole.

In trying to cut this Gordian knot the finance folk have worked on the principle that (a) the harmonisation of council tax takes place over a period of less than eight years and (b) that in each year the differential between the highest and lowest prevailing rates reduces.

In a letter to the Ministry, the Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole Shadow Executive has confirmed that at its meeting on the 15 June 2018 it decided that provided reorganisation is implemented, the Council Tax levied in Christchurch will be frozen until 2025-2026 making it a 6-year transition period.

It has emerged that in 2015-16 DCC took out loans of £96 million using a highly controversial mechanism called a LOBO Loan. They are provided by banks and the loan contract runs for between 40 and 70 years.

There is no regulatory body responsible for overseeing their use and the DCC action smacks of desperate measures.

Under LOBO Loans, the bank can increase interest rates annually. The borrower then only has the option to pay the increased interest charges or to repay the loan in full plus exit fees. That usually means the borrower pays more.

For example, Cornwall Council are apparently servicing LOBOs totalling £394 million. The council is locked into some of the deals until the year 2078, paying interest at more than double the current market rate.

As a direct consequence of making repayments on LOBOs, it is reported that some councils have had to make major cuts in services to their residents.

Last month the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy urged local councils to review their LOBO loans after auditing firms expressed concern at their impact on local authorities’ accounts.

We’ve asked CBC and can report that they do not have any LOBO loans. However, part of that £96 million that DCC borrowed could be attributed in some way to Christchurch when we split from Dorset Council. We asked Ian Milner, CBC Strategic Director, and he tells us that “nothing has yet been decided
Christchurch Request for Judicial Review

CBC has been granted permission to have its Judicial Review application heard in the High Court.

Leader Cllr David Flagg said: “CBC firmly believes the regulations that have passed through Parliament approving the creation of two new unitary councils in Dorset are illegal and being granted permission to have our Judicial Review application heard in the High Court demonstrates that we have an arguable case. 

“Whilst the Government might believe that our case is absurd that it is clearly not the view of the Judge and we believe we have a strong legal argument.”

The Honourable Mrs Justice Lambert has ordered that the case will be expedited and heard in the High Court by 27 July 2018. A statement from the eight other Dorset councils, who are all in favour of the two respective mergers, said:

It is not surprising that permission has been granted for the judicial review to go ahead, given that the challenge relates to new legal powers that have not been previously used.
"We fully expect the review to conclude that the Secretary of State made the decision lawfully. In the meantime, nothing has changed in terms of the plans that are already in place, and we are continuing to prepare for the launch of the new councils in April 2019.”
Christchurch Proposed Parish Councils

The proposals contained in the Christchurch Governance Review are:

Retention of the parish of Burton
Retention of the parish of Hurn
Creation of the new parish of Highcliffe and Walkford
Creation of the new parish of Mudeford and Stanpit
Creation of the new parish of Christchurch (for the remainder of the area - comprising Jumpers and St Cats, Grange and Priory - to be known as Christchurch Town Council)
Jumpers and St Cats will have 6 councillors which gives 1,363 electors per councillor (1,363 in Grange, 1,344 in Priory). They will not receive an allowance but may be able to reclaim legitimate expenses. The first elections will be on 2nd May 2019.
The precept on our Council Tax shouldn't exceed £2 per month. If you want to comment, the website is here

The deadline is 20th July
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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