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Your Residents Association Newsletter

Community Matters - March 2019

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
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Council Tax
Losing some friends
Fraudsters use HMRC
Fly tipping
Building a New Council
Dorset National Park

A Date for your Diary

Don’t forget our AGM on Thursday 21st March at 7.30pm in The Hall on the Hill, Marlow Drive. Sue Fotheringham and Jim Biggin will be there to answer your questions.

Getting Medicine after Brexit

NHS England have published patient messaging on which sets out how patients can access their medicines and medical products in the event of shortages after Brexit.
A message for healthcare providers has also been published as well as a Q&A for more information for patients and healthcare providers.
Please read that information here  

It is also available on NHSE’s website 

The Q&A is here 

New Council Contact Numbers from 1st April

Adult Social Care 01202-454-979

Child Care 01202-735-046

School Admissions for September 2019 01305-221-060 or 01202-456-223 for other questions

Renew Bus Pass 01202-634-249

This month sees the end of nine councils in Dorset, including of course CBC

They will be replaced by two new unitary authorities. This course of action was a strategic response to the ongoing financial challenges faced by all local authorities, particularly the upper tier authorities such as DCC, Bournemouth and Poole (CBC is a second-tier council).

It started in November 2015 when the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the Treasury served notice on local authorities that a huge squeeze on their financing was on the way. True to their word the period 2015-16 to 2019-20 has seen a reduction in Local Government funding from £11 billion to £5 billion.

The Government set out to protect spending on the NHS. It confirmed that its strategic approach is to increase council tax as the mechanism for funding local services. CBC (the sixth smallest council in England) decided to oppose the reorganisation by spending over £100,000 of our money. However, such was the strength of The Government’s commitment it was always going to be too powerful for such a small minority to overcome.

As a result of Government policy, by 2021 BPC will be reliant on the money and other income it raises locally to pay for most local services, be that Council Tax or the amount of local business rates it can retain. It has already identified savings of £11 million but to stay solvent, the Council must make further savings of at least £27million over the next three years.

In the background, MPs have launched an inquiry into local government finance to review its policy ahead of the 2019 Spending Review. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee will examine how effective the existing funding set-up for local government is in providing resources to meet demands for local services across the UK.  We could answer that without an enquiry whilst also pointing out just how unfair Council Tax is. It’s easy to collect of course – and that matters.

Council Tax
In 2018-19 a Band D property in Christchurch paid £1,600 a year in Council Tax. In Bournemouth it was £1,439 and in Poole £1,400.

Those rates need to be harmonised and that will happen gradually over the next seven years.

Why was Christchurch the highest of the three?

First, because the two-tier structure of DCC was more expensive to run than the unitary structure of both Bournemouth and Poole.

Second, because Christchurch is predominantly urban whilst DCC presided over a predominantly rural community.

There are people who claim that harmonisation should be immediate with everybody paying the Poole rate from day one. A moment’s thought will tell you that the outcome of that path would be a huge loss of income to BCP which already faces a funding deficit in 2022-23. Anybody proposing it as a course of action must also explain how that loss of income is to be balanced – presumably by a cut in services

There has also been some talk of it being unfair that “Christchurch tax payers will be subsidising everybody else”. Such cross-subsidy has been going on for years within DCC.

For every £1 of council tax collected by CBC about 74 pence went straight to DCC where it was put in a big melting pot along with money from North Dorset, West Dorset, and the rest.

This created all sorts of subsidy. For example, Christchurch has just 6% of the road network that DCC is responsible for but accounts for 11% of its population.

In 2019-20 Poole Band D Council Tax will be £1,442 (an increase of 2.9%); Bournemouth will be £1,473 (an increase of 2.4%); Christchurch will be frozen.

A word of warning. These figures do not allow for the additional charges that are collected by councils to pass over to the police, fire and ambulance services. They also ignore the additional charges that are levied to pay for Parish Councils.

Residents of Hurn are accustomed to an extra charge of nearly £3 a month. Other residents of Christchurch will now suffer similar additional charges to pay for the new Town Council and Highcliffe Council. On that front, Dan Lucas the Borough solicitor has been appointed Town Clerk to the Town Council

What would the situation be if we were in the new Rural Dorset unitary authority?

Residents in most of the new Dorset Council area will see their council tax bills rise when the new merged authority comes in to effect in April. Households in North Dorset will be the worst hit.

For the first time many Band D homes in rural Dorset will be paying over £2,000 a year. The authority said it calculated the new rates by increasing the lowest council tax rate across the area by the maximum allowed without triggering a referendum.

We will be losing some friends
In losing CBC we are also losing some key people. Three CBC officers have been great friends of our Residents Association.

Chief Executive David McIntosh and his two Strategic Directors Dave Barnes (pictured above) and Ian Milner. They have always been prepared to make time for us and to explain to us yet again why running a council isn’t the same as running a company.

We asked Dave Barnes if he had any fond memories:

Personally, I have always enjoyed attending your meetings to make presentations and found your members very welcoming. I have been asked some very relevant and skill testing questions, so my personal thanks to the people who took the time to come along.

 I recall once the Government carried out a comprehensive inspection of Council services and sent a team of Audit Commission staff into every Council to give them a score.

Part of the process was a tour of the Council area. For the CBC tour one of the stopping off points was the Marlow Drive Car Park at St Catherine’s. We wanted to proudly show off the new St Catherine’s Community Centre which, with help from the Resident’s Association, we had managed to build through a developer agreement. 
As we arrived, I was extolling the virtues of Christchurch being a clean town and as I did so the lead inspector stepped out of the minibus and put his foot straight into a half-eaten discarded meat pie. There was a tense silence as foot and pie were disengaged and in typical British fashion, we carried on the inspection with not a word said.

Since that day every time I have visited the car park, I have been on pie alert and although slightly concerning at the time I look back on it now and have a chuckle. It’s one of the things which will help me remember St Catherine’s with fondness.

Which is how we will remember you Dave, and your colleagues 

Households with a landline number should be vigilant of phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be the tax authority, warns HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

As HMRC has increasingly cracked down on email fraud, a rising number of criminals are turning to the traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers. Often these calls are to landline numbers.

Phone scams often target the elderly and vulnerable by pretending to represent HMRC. They received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in 6 months up to January 2019. This is an increase of 360% compared to the 6 months before that.

If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers: hang up and report it to HMRC.

The tax authority will only ever call you asking for payment on a debt that you are already aware of.

At least 50 black bin bags containing cannabis plants, peat, and light fittings have been discarded on Town Common in a ditch off Dudmoor Lane. This follows identical incidents in April and December 2018. As you know this is part of the St Catherine’s Hill SSSI.

Dorset Waste Partnership, which is responsible for the removal of rubbish tipped on public ground, can’t act as the waste is on private land owned by the Malmesbury Estate. Gary Powell, of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust who run the site for the estate, said when he contacted police about the two previous incidents “they expressed no interest in pursuing it further”.

We think the fact that its cannabis is not the main issue. It’s fly-tipping onto an SSSI and that should be taken seriously no matter what the rubbish consists of. We believe that conviction can lead to a prison sentence.

However, it appears that the Police do not have to investigate the matter and it is left to our local authority – who lack the resources to take concentrated action. Environmental crime is clearly not taken too seriously in the UK.

The collection vehicles currently being used to collect waste in Christchurch are near the end of their operational life. They break down too often and incur significant maintenance costs

From 1 April 2020, BCP will take over from the Dorset Waste Partnership and will be responsible for operating waste services in Christchurch. They plan to purchase some new vehicles at a cost of £1.2 million. Six new standard waste collection vehicles and two food waste collection vehicles will enable BCP to collect our waste in Christchurch from April 2020.

Initially the purchase will result in broadly similar costs. Longer-term, rationalising the whole approach across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will offer greater efficiencies. This will include optimising the route the trucks take.

Regular readers will know that from time to time we feature snippets about Artificial Intelligence in these newsletters.

You can read an English-language description of AI written by Jim Biggin who has experience in this field by clicking here.

Local government continues to face an unprecedented set of challenges with further reductions in the funding provided by central government anticipated alongside increasing demand for existing and new services.

In the past Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset County Councils have worked independently of one another. An opportunity now exists to look beyond parochial boundaries and to adopt a holistic approach.

At its inception, BCP Council expects to have a funding gap of up to £30m in the period to 2022-23. It will need to be both flexible and entrepreneurial in its use of new technology. It is therefore wisely planning to engage specialist consultants to hold its hand.

The consultants will, among other things: analyse Council activity to properly understand current costs and working practices; suggest options for the future including new ways of working using the latest IT based techniques; provide an implementation plan for design and delivery.

A Dorset National Park

There is renewed interest in creating a Dorset National Park. The area to be included has yet to be defined – but there is growing support for a proposal that it should follow the boundaries of the new rural Dorset Council.

National Parks tend to increase tourism, assist the rural economy, and support sustainable public transport. They provide some employment, with the South Downs National Park for example employing about 100 people.

They also attract inward investment (using South Downs again, it attracted £100 million of investment in its first five years, including money to encourage farmers and landowners to protect and enhance the environment for wildlife).

But the downside could be handing planning control over to a body which is not directly elected and an influx of people who buy properties within the park as investments.

We could benefit from this because sitting on the edge of the designated area the economic benefits would inevitably spill over into neighbouring areas
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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