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Your Residents Association Newsletter

Community Matters - November 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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Blue Badge Holders
BPC Strategic Review
Wessex Fields Consultation
Helping the Homeless
School Funding
Paperless Property Transactions
Parish Notices

Blue Badge Holders

Following requests for help from our members we wrote to BCP Chief Executive Graham Farrant as follows:

We are receiving complaints from our members about the current backlog of applications for both new Blue Badges and the renewal of existing ones. Here’s a typical quote:

You may wish to warn other residents about the current huge backlog of applications.  My wife applied to renew her badge several weeks ago and, having heard nothing, telephoned to discover that her application hadn't even been looked at yet, let alone processed.

We would be grateful if BCP could give us a statement by way of explanation and guidance for our members that we can pass on to them.

Here’s the reply we received from the Chief Executive:

The Department for Transport and BCP websites both advise that an application (including renewal) can take up to 12 weeks for a decision to be made. Each application, including renewals, must be assessed to ensure that it meets the eligibility criteria. The lead time between the submission of an application and the assessment is currently at seven weeks and there are no current applications that have exceeded that time before assessment has begun. Whilst I do not think that is a particularly good standard, it does keep us within the Department for transport’s own guidelines.

All applications are assessed in order of date received, the exception being those that relate to people with a terminal illness. The responsibility is with the badge holder to ensure that they are aware when their badge is valid and to allow adequate time for a decision to be made on a renewal, which is currently within the 12-week DoT guideline (our added emphasis)

I have been informed that there are 1,071 applications in the system of which 571 are renewals, which is a higher number than normal. The introduction of the new eligibility in relation to hidden disabilities has resulted in a spike in the number of applications since the end of August and we are addressing this through short term increases in staff working hours and the recruitment of a temporary member of staff for a few months.

The oldest application waiting for us to assess is just under 7 weeks old - there are older applications on the system, but these are where we have requested additional information in order to make the decision or we are awaiting payment. 

I hope this information is useful, but please rest assured that we are not at all complacent about how quickly these matters are progressed and will personally follow it up until the timescales are closer to those that I would expect.

BCP Strategic Review 

BCP has commissioned a report from consultants KPMG to help it reorganise itself and build an organisation fit for the twenty-first century.

BCP has inherited a legacy of multiple ways of working from the four preceding authorities.  

There is a significant amount of duplication of effort in completing common processes across all areas of the authority including 392 different IT systems that are complex and fragmented
It has three Head Offices – two of which occupy valuable sites but are useless as modern offices (Bournemouth and Poole) and the third (Christchurch) is too small.

BCP has overall 2,842 buildings on 852 sites containing 3,700 desks which have an average occupancy of 41%. That means that 2,000 desks are unoccupied every day (because officers are out on site or visiting etc.)

BPC spends £6.4 million a year spread between 3,539 external suppliers. That is hugely costly to administer and does not lend itself to volume discounts.

The KPMG analysis makes it abundantly clear that as an organisation BCP has no alternative but to embark on a large-scale programme of transformation. Its current state is not sustainable.

However, the real value of the KPMG overview is not in the issues and difficulties that it has identified (most of which were highly predictable) but the potential that exists in redesigning the organisation to correct them. If BCP do that well, there is significant opportunity to improve the effectiveness and resilience of its services while reducing the cost base of the organisation at the same time.

KPMG have created a proposed operating model for BCP to adopt. It embraces the increasing benefits of the use of Artificial Intelligence within local authorities, which should come as no surprise to our regular readers. If this is new to you, you’ll find an English language explanation here
KPMG estimate the one-off cost of implementation to be some £20 to £30 million spread over four years. These costs are made up of a mix of capital and revenue. Their assessment of the potential net financial benefits of successfully adopting the new Operating Model is some £30 to £40 million over the same four-year period with break-even occurring in year three. These benefits of course don’t cease in year four but continue. 
If you didn’t realise it before now, you begin to see the reasons why the Government has worked to create councils that are financially large enough to survive in this environment.

The future for Wessex Fields  

Following the decision by BCP Cabinet to only build part of the road from the A338 up to the Wessex Fields development site boundary line, work is underway to shape the future for the Wessex Fields site. 

Residents, community groups and business representatives are invited to help shape the future of Wessex Fields at an engagement event scheduled for the 19th November at The Bridge, Littledown Centre where the future of the site will be discussed. 

The engagement day will be split into three 1½ hour sessions and those who wish to attend must register 
in advance choosing their preferred time slot.    

This event will be an opportunity to hear from the Leader of the Council and share ideas on how the site should be developed in the future.  Any ideas put forward will need to be financially viable and environmentally appropriate.

And for the Lansdowne 

Everyone living in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole is invited to have their say on ambitious plans to transform and pedestrianize parts of Lansdowne.   

Residents, commuters and local businesses are invited to 
view the plans and complete a short survey. Your feedback will help influence the final designs.


Helping the Homeless 
The number of rough sleepers across the BCP area (particularly in Bournemouth) is relatively high. Like many other areas, the numbers of rough sleepers or those having street lifestyles has unfortunately increased over recent years. 

The rough sleeper outreach team alongside a wide range of other committed services continue to work every day to find and offer support to rough sleepers. Some of them accept help and manage to rebuild their lives; others choose not to accept either help or accommodation.

Substance misuse and mental health problems are a big barrier to getting people off the streets. We know that some people beg in our towns, and sleep rough, because of these problems, even when they have somewhere to stay.

The introduction of the new BCP Homelessness Partnership represents an opportunity to strengthen efforts to reduce the need for people to sleep rough.

The new partnership, launched on World Homeless Day, 10 October 2019, brings together local voluntary and statutory organisations all working together to avoid duplication and ensuring a common targeted approach.

Additional government grant funding received will be used to find and maintain accommodation for those sleeping rough across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

School Funding 

Schooling is one of the main pressures on BCP Council’s budgets with demand on services for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities very high. It is already running a budget deficit.

At the end of the second quarter, Children’s Services were projecting a budget shortfall of £3 million out of a total BCP projected shortfall of £4.5 million (that’s a reduction on the £5 million projection at the end of the first quarter)

So, the news that our schools will receive only £4,465 per pupil next year (the third lowest amount of Government funding per pupil of any area of England) has not been well received. Only South Gloucestershire and Wokingham will be given less while Bristol will receive £4,891 per student.

Whilst overall this represents a small 5% increase in funding over this year the extra money will not go anywhere near closing the budget gap. Indeed, eleven BCP schools will see budgets increased by just less than 2% which is the minimum inflationary rise awarded.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Lecturers said:

The extra money for schools is not enough to reverse the cuts and the funding crisis is not over.

In fact, many schools will have to make further cuts next year because they are receiving only an inflationary increase and school costs are rising above inflation.

Paperless Property Transactions

HM Land Registry’s new digital service ‘Sign your mortgage deed’ is now building momentum as the 1,000th digital mortgage deed was registered last week.

Coventry Building Society, who registered the very first digital mortgage, are leading the way with 37% of all digital mortgages registered, followed by HSBC at 25%

The service was launched by HM Land Registry to reduce paperwork and delays when applying for a re-mortgage. Some customers have been able to complete the process in 3 days, 18 days less than the average for a paper transaction.

As well as speeding up the re-mortgaging process, the way the service has been designed makes it more convenient for homeowners. The only information needed is an email address, a mobile phone number and the borrower’s date of birth.

Because the whole process is completed online, it can be done at any time of the day and anywhere with an internet connection, meaning the service isn’t delayed by people waiting until they get home, needing to buy stamps, or making the last post.

The service is currently available for people re-mortgaging their houses with HM Land Registry planning on expanding the service to all homeowners in the future.

The whole UK property sector is on the cusp of a digital revolution.

We’ve had revolutions in the way that financial services, online banking and transport are provided, turning once unimaginable possibilities into everyday realities. Now it’s the turn of the UK property market.

Whatever homebuyers prioritise, whether it’s the quality of local schools, the probability of getting a seat on a train, or having easy access to leisure facilities, the planned new technology could transform the way we find and purchase homes.

It will also link builders to brownfield sites more easily, enhance how developers engage with local communities, help builders deliver new homes and modernise the way we buy and sell land and houses, cutting the time it takes to get housing from the drawing board to families getting the keys.

Parish Notices
Christmas Fair: Saturday 16th November at Twynham Church, Barrack Road. Entry £1 for adults, children free. Includes live music and a visit to Father Christmas.
Traditional Carol service Sunday 15th December at 2.30pm at the Hall on the Hill organised by the Christchurch Baptist Church. Sing traditional carols and enjoy mince pies
and mulled wine (sponsored by the Bunker)

Two Rivers Meet: Due to essential maintenance the swimming pool will be closed from 9th December to 5th January 2020
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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