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Community Matters - June 2019

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Council Tax Harmonisation
Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership
Good News from the Banks
Domestic Abuse
Artificial Intelligence
Spur Road Speed Cameras
Changes to Planning Laws
Dorset Waste Partnership
Local Food Banks

The new BCP Cabinet has approved plans to harmonise Council Tax by April 2021

This has been made possible by the Government raising the limit at which residents can call for a referendum to block the increase from 2% to 3%.

There is a built-in assumption here that the Government will continue to allow the higher limit in 2020 and 2021. That probably won’t be confirmed until late 2019 when the Government will reveal its full financial package for BCP in the years 2020 to 2022.

This potentially puts the council in a vulnerable position. They are unlikely to have certainty over major elements of their financial planning framework until between nine to ten weeks before Council is required to approve the 2020-21 Budget.

A final decision will be taken on 18
February 2020.

Under the plans, Poole’s council tax will increase by 3% in each of the next two years.

In Bournemouth the council tax will increase by 3% in 2020 and then by less than 1% in 2021.

In Christchurch council tax will reduce by 4% in 2020 followed by a freeze in 2021.

The financial plan envisages a sacrifice by BPC of £2.5 million of Council Tax income

For the first time the government has produced a practical guide highlighting all the Council Tax discounts and exemptions to ensure families aren’t paying more than their fair share of Council Tax.

Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP said: Council Tax is a vital source of funding for local government, supporting most of the day-to-day services we all use and rely on.

However, no one should be paying more than their fair share. We want to help people keep more of what they earn which is why we’ve produced this easily-accessible guide explaining the discounts and exemptions available – many of which people may never even knew existed.

The BCP financial plan identifies a funding shortfall of £15 million in 2020-21

Accordingly, major service providers will be set savings targets.

Adult Social Care £7.8 million; Children’s Services £2 million; Environment £4 million; Corporate Services £1.4 million.

Far from making savings, the recent history of Adult Social Care and Children’s Services is one of exceeding budgets by quite large amounts. How BCP intends to reverse this trend is not yet clear. On your behalf. we have written to Adam Richens, BCP Chief Finance Officer, asking for clarification.

The BCP Cabinet heard that the three preceding councils of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole all achieved balanced or better budgets for the financial year 2018-19, with the Borough of Poole needing a lower than expected contribution from capital resources. They have decided that this saving will be used to increase the number of public toilets in Poole.

The capital transfer cost to BCP of moving Christchurch out of Dorset will not be known until the autumn 2019.

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership

These people are tasked with pulling together local industrial strategies, plans that will support economic growth in Dorset.

They tell us that the number one issue that businesses raise is the challenge of finding staff.

With unemployment at its lowest for 45 years, it’s a candidates’ marketplace. This applies to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled roles. Employers repeatedly say they cannot fill vacancies.

The cost and availability of housing is an important issue within this. Surveys by Dorset Chamber regularly identify that up to 30% of employers state that the cost of housing is a barrier to business growth.

Alongside this there is a widespread concern that we lose many of our talented young people to other areas. Graduate retention is a real problem and young people leave the area when their studies are complete and move to places they may see as more vibrant such as Manchester, Bristol and London.

Finally, a major focus needs to be around sustainable transport solutions for the conurbation.
Our road infrastructure is at breaking point and extremely fragile. One accident or roadworks cause incredible congestion making travel, particularly during peak times, a huge problem for employees and business owners alike.

It’s difficult to see a real solution to this in terms of the infrastructure.

Of course, we need investment in the road network. We also need to encourage employers to take innovative steps where possible to reduce traffic levels with measures such as home working, better use of technology and staggered start and finish times.

We look forward to BCP making a key contribution to resolving some of these issues.

Good News from the Banks

Last year, £354 million was lost to what’s known in the trade as “authorised push payment frauds”.
These are scams in which customers are tricked into authorising a payment to a crook, rather than the money simply being stolen.

Historically, banks would only reimburse their customer if the bank was at fault. As such, only £83 million was recovered, meaning bank customers lost £251 million.

This month, however, marks a turning point for victims of fraud, as a new voluntary code takes effect.

From now, payment providers who are signed up to the voluntary code will judge each case against a set of criteria to determine whether a customer should be reimbursed after falling for a scam.

Anyone who has taken reasonable care, or has any element of vulnerability, is much more likely to receive a refund of the lost money.
TSB state that they guarantee a refund for anyone who is an innocent victim of fraud.

Eight other banks, covering 17 brands, have committed to implementing the code with immediate effect.

They are: Barclays; HSBC (including First Direct and M&S Bank); Lloyds (including Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Intelligent Finance); Metro Bank; Nationwide; RBS (including NatWest and Ulster Bank); Santander (including Cahoot and Carter Allen); Starling Bank
It’s really encouraging to see banks stepping up and helping victims of fraud, but it is worth pointing out that the code does not apply in cases where victims have been “grossly negligent”.

If in doubt, take the time to check out the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign.

There, you will find helpful advice and resources to help you stay safe from fraud, as well as helping to educate friends and family or follow this link

Parliamentary Developments in Domestic Abuse

BCP are to be given a legal duty to provide “safe houses” for victims of domestic abuse and their children, under new plans announced by the prime minister. The new policy, backed by government funding to be provided to local authorities, will aim to end the “postcode lottery” for victims and their children.

Those seeking refuge from violence and domestic abuse currently receive varying levels of support depending on their location, with some unable to find refuge places because there is no provision at all.

The upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill will introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.

The new legislation will establish a domestic abuse commissioner and will also prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts.

Councils and Artificial Intelligence

A new report, published by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), looks at how new technologies can be used by Councils to provide better, more efficient delivery of public services.

It says for example that Local authorities should use a new generation of “smart bins” and council tax cuts to drive up household recycling rates. Bins fitted with sensors could record household recycling rates, cutting councils’ costs using better-planned rubbish collection routes and then passing these savings onto residents with the highest recycling rates.

Dorset’s recycling rates have increased over recent years. From a mere 29% back in 2003, latest figures from DEFRA show we’re now up to 60%, placing us in the top 5% of local authorities in England.

The amount of waste sent to landfill has also decreased from 71% to 17%, while rubbish sent to Energy from Waste (EfW) makes up around 23% of what we collect. You can find out more about what happens to it all at Where Waste Goes webpage.

The report explores the possible benefits of several other new technologies in local government but we’re not sure that BCP has the capacity to grasp any of these developments even though a stated ambition for the Council is to be technology driven.

In the short-term there are opportunities for the rationalisation of two or more inherited systems into one which will also be associated with the overall reduction in staff numbers.

Officers have been requested to bring forward opportunities for delivering system-based savings for 2020.

The new permanent average speed cameras on the A338 Bournemouth Spur Road, went live on Friday 31 May 2019.  

The average speed cameras will support a temporary 40mph speed limit on the southbound carriageway of the A338 from Blackwater Junction to the Cooper Dean Roundabout. The 40mph southbound limit will be in place for the remainder of the works to ensure the safety of road users and the workforce. The cameras will support a 50mph limit on the northbound carriageway. 

Following the completion of the scheme next month, average speed cameras will support the 50mph limit that was previously in place on both sides of the carriageway. The cameras will be managed by Dorset Police. 

Currently, work on the multi-million-pound A338 / Blackwater Junction Improvements scheme is running to schedule for completion at the end of June.

Changes to Planning Laws

Thousands of homeowners will be able to extend their properties quickly and easily without the need for a full planning application, under rules made permanent at the end of May.

In a wide-reaching package of reforms, rights allowing larger home extensions have been made permanent, following their introduction in 2013. Under the rules, homeowners can put a single-storey rear extension on their property of up to 6 metres for terraced or semi-detached homes, or 8 metres for detached homes.

In addition, restrictive planning rules have also been axed, which will ensure business owners can respond quickly to changing trends on the high street. For example, shops will now be able to change to office space without the need for a full planning application.

Dorset Waste Partnership special home composting offers

Please see details of the offer and how to place an order or phone 0844 571 4444 quoting your postcode

The two most popular compost bins are on special offer. The 220 litre compost converter bin will cost £18.50. If you order a second one, it will cost just £9.25.

The 330 litre compost converter bin will cost £20.50. If you order a second one it will cost just £10.25.

There will be a flat rate delivery charge of £5.99 on top of this.

The offer will be available for Dorset residents until 31 March 2020. This includes residents living in Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland.

Local Food Banks

Our Committee member Maureen Biggin tells us:

With the school summer holidays approaching please, if you can, donate to the local food bank. There are many families in Christchurch that struggle to make ends meet and we are only weeks away from a critical time. Children that are fed at school during term time become vulnerable in the long summer recess and the food banks are used to make up the deficit.

You can contribute in most of the local supermarkets, at your local church or at St Joseph’s Purewell

Dates for your diary

Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd June, a beach yoga festival is coming to Bournemouth beach. Suitable for beginners and experienced yogis alike, there will be two main beach class areas. There will also be a small exhibition area, along with an Ibiza-style chillout area for people to relax after their classes and watch the sun go down.

Saturday 20th July at St Peter’s School, Southbourne (The Broadway entrance). A charity concert in support of the Jermain Defoe Foundation and Brendon Care Nursing Homes. 7pm until 10pm with live music, a barbeque and a firework display. Adults £10 each payable on entry (children free).

Wednesday 17th July is the AGM of The Hall on the Hill. The meeting, which will be held in the Hall, commences at 7.30pm

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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