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Your Residents Association Newsletter

Community Matters - February 2020

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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2020-21 Subscriptions
BCP 2020-21 Budget
Christchurch Debt transferred to BCP
Rough Sleeping
The Amazon Scam
Christchurch Hospital
Two Riversmeet
Fighting Child Grooming
St Catherine's Hill

We are fast approaching the time when your annual £1 subscription will be due.

This year, in a change to past practice, rather than knock on your door we are going to send members an e-mail renewal notice. You will be able to use that to pay your £1 either by post or by inter-bank transfer.

If you want to know more, we will be discussing this change at our Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 18th March at 7.30pm in The Hall on the Hill, Marlow Drive, Christchurch. Please come along and let us hear your views.

On 12th February the BCP Cabinet endorsed their 2020-21 budget. They did this in the knowledge that 2019-20 will see an estimated funding shortfall of over £5 million which will be met by transferring money out of savings (reserves). Children’s services are projecting a shortfall of nearly £3 million (about 5% over budget).

The 2020-21 budget envisages that Council Tax in Christchurch will fall by about £4 per month. In both Bournemouth and Poole, it will increase by about £6 a month. That paves the way for full harmonisation next year.

Those living in the area covered by Christchurch Town Council will see the charge for that parish council increase by over 50% to approximately £4 a month in contrast to Burton up 1%, Hurn up 3% and Highcliffe a reduction of 6%.

The record of achievement in 2019-20 for Christchurch Town Council is poor to non-existent. Quite how they justify such an increase is something of a puzzle.

In contrast, the main BCP 2020-21 budget will deliver savings of over £9 million in addition to the £11 million savings achieved in 2019-20. These savings arise from council reorganisation and there will be more to come in later years.

£390,000 has been earmarked for road improvement in the Christchurch area. Dorset County Council under invest in our local roads and it is hoped that this funding will begin to address that problem. Another £150,000 has been allocated to improving street cleaning.

This overall result has been achieved against a difficult national background. April 2020 was supposed to see the introduction of a new financial framework for local government with the implementation of a fairer funding formula.

In addition, 2019 was supposed to see the announcement of a green paper on how the government considered social care should be funded in the future. It clearly can’t go on as it is, accounting for up to 66% of council spending. Neither of those things happened.

In response to the urgent need to provide certainty and stability for 2020 the then Chancellor, Sajid Javid, announced a one-year deal on 4 September 2019. The statement included the announcement that the long-term local Government finance reforms, including business rates retention and the review of relative needs and resources (called fairer funding) have now been delayed until 2021-22.

The Government has been ruthless in cutting back on local authorities. The reduction in funding since 2010 to the combined Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole council area amounts to £103 million. That is a greater sum that the whole of Poole’s budget in 2018-19. What a pity that their performance in improving the system of financing these services has been so tardy.

Hidden away in the BCP budget analysis is a fact that will be of interest to many in Christchurch.

During the period 2015 to 2019 many of us became tired of hearing from certain quarters that “Christchurch is a debt free Council”. That highly misleading statement relied upon the ignorance of most residents as to how the system between Dorset Council and Christchurch Council worked with debt incurred in Christchurch buried within the overall Dorset accounts.

Here’s a direct quote from the BCP budget analysis (slightly edited to aid comprehension):

Following Deloitte’s approval of the Dorset County Councils accounts at the end of July 2019, work commenced to apportion their certified assets and liabilities between the two new Councils. The priority was the disaggregation of debt.

All the actual debt held by Dorset County Council will transfer to the new Dorset Area Unitary.

However, BCP Council is required to compensate Dorset for Christchurch’s share of that debt. The outcome is that BCP Council will inherit approximately 7.75 per cent of the debt of DCC which amounts to £24.3 million. 

The budget for 2020-21 assumes that the debt disaggregated to BCP Council will be funded by short term borrowing over three years. BCP will therefore not be committed to long term borrowing at this point.
BCP Survey

Ensuring that everybody in our diverse communities can get involved and help shape and influence council services is a priority for BCP.  They want to improve how they engage with residents.

They have produced some draft Community Engagement and Consultation principles on how they plan to engage with our communities in the future.

They’d like you to tell them what you think by completing their survey.

Rough Sleeping

Funding of more than £1.4 million has been awarded to BCP in a bid to enhance the work taking place to support those who are rough sleeping to move off the street and receive the help they need.

This latest round of funding comes as part of Government’s £100 million strategy to end rough sleeping for good and will further boost the work that is taking place to help people who are living on the streets in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

The funding aims to support actions and interventions expected to have the greatest and the quickest impact on rough sleeping numbers. 

Since summer 2018, the former Bournemouth Borough Council and now BCP Council has received almost £3 million which has paid for additional work on top of the existing well-established services for rough sleepers. Initially this additional work was focused in Bournemouth as the area has a higher number of rough sleepers compared to neighbouring areas, but the additional investment has benefited both Christchurch and Poole.

To date, the funding has been invested in employing more frontline outreach workers who work directly with those sleeping rough as well as a co-ordinator and other specialist staff. The latest funding will allow for the additional work to continue and be enhanced for a further year.

From April 2019 to date 140 vulnerable people who were sleeping rough were supported into temporary accommodation as a result of the additional funding. The majority have now successfully moved into accommodation as a result. This is in addition to the well-established existing services to support rough sleepers where year on year an average of 15-20 people were helped off the streets each month.

The Amazon Scam

Police are warning about a telephone scam that has tricked people out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The scheme sees fraudsters pretend to be from Amazon to con victims into handing over their bank details.

Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has received hundreds of calls about the scam since last September of which at least 200 were from people who were tricked out of more than £400,000 in total.

The scam begins with an automated call telling victims that a fraudster has used their personal details to sign up for an Amazon Prime subscription. The victim is then instructed to press 1 to cancel the transaction.

When they do this, they are directly connected to a scammer posing as an Amazon customer service representative.

The criminal again tells the victim that an Amazon Prime subscription was purchased fraudulently and that they need remote access to the victim's computer to fix a security flaw so that it won't happen again.

The victim is told to download an application called Team Viewer, which gives the criminal access to the victim's computer.

The victim is then asked to log on to their online banking account, at which point the fraudster can steal their banking details or even distract the victim while money is transferred out of their account.

Amazon said: "If you receive a suspicious phone call, email or text message claiming to be from Amazon, asking for payment, personal information or offering a refund you do not expect, please do not share any personal information, and disconnect any phone call immediately.

You can report spam calls via Action Fraud. Please also note that Amazon will never ask for your personal information or ask you to make a payment outside of our website”.

Christchurch Hospital

Plans have been announced for a £12 million project to develop Christchurch Hospital. The project is a joint enterprise from three local organisations: Macmillan Caring Locally, The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Affordable Housing and Healthcare Group.

The proposed plans include a new MacMillan Caring Locally hospice, additional NHS services and a set of affordable homes for over-55s.

Having been constructed in 1974, the existing MacMillan Unit is set to be demolished to make way for the new 'state-of-the-art' building, which would include 20 beds, including 12 single beds with en-suites, a multi-faith room and day facilities.

Having already set aside £5 million for the project, if the plans are approved, the hospice will look to raise the remaining cash through fundraising activities, trust funds and its capital appeal Brick by Brick.

Richard Renaut, chief operating officer at the hospital trust, said: “The plans are a result of many months of working closely together with Macmillan Caring Locally and AHH and their respective architectural teams.

We’ve already upgraded Christchurch hospital, secured the services on site and started to create a senior living community. This next stage creates a real community hub, much needed afforded senior living, as well as the new MacMillan unit.

For the NHS, we’ll have even better physiotherapy services, and subject to funding would see the Dorset Prosthetic Centre move on site. This is an exciting package designed to meet local needs.”

If planning for the MacMillan Hospice is approved, work is expected to begin by June or July this year with a target date for completion set for Christmas 2021.

Two Riversmeet

A newly refurbished leisure facility in Christchurch is helping residents lead healthy and active lives.

Residents using the Two Riversmeet Leisure Complex can now enjoy a range of new exercise and training facilities, including;

  • A new premium cycling studio with modern lighting and a fresh sound system
  • The studio is fitted with new Keiser M3i bikes that digitally link to monitor performance during classes
  • A newly renovated fitness suite with brand new rowing and weights machines
  • Transformation of the pool hall following complete drainage and refurbishment

A new and modern reception area also welcomes those arriving at the complex.  

This recent £70,000 investment has been funded by BCP Council.

Councillor Lewis Allison, Cabinet Member for Tourism, Leisure and Communities commented:

I am delighted to see the new facilities at Two Riversmeet already being used by residents. We want to encourage as many people as possible to lead active and healthy lives and this investment demonstrates our commitment to support our local communities. 

“Regular physical activity provides many health and wellbeing benefits and can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle. We are proud of the transformation at Two Riversmeet and hope these benefits will be felt by both our current and new members of this popular complex.”

Fighting Child Grooming

A newly developed technique which uses artificial intelligence to identify and block child grooming conversations online has been launched by the Home Office and Microsoft in Seattle.

The method will automatically flag conversations which could be taking place between groomers and children and pass on the details of the flagged conversation to the relevant law enforcement agency.

The technique will be licensed free of charge to small and medium-sized technology companies to help them stamp out child grooming on their platforms.

The prototype of the technology was created Seattle in 2018. Engineers from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Snap and Twitter worked for two days analysing thousands of conversations to understand patterns used by predators.

Since then, engineers have worked through technical, legal and policy aspects, analysing thousands more instances of grooming conversations to develop the technique. The work was led by a cross industry group made up of Microsoft, The Met Group, Roblox, Kik, Thorn and others.

Licensing and adoption of the technique will be handled by Thorn, a charity that focuses on harnessing the power of technology to guard children online.

This technology is part of the government’s work to block all forms of child sexual exploitation. In July 2019, the Home Secretary brought together counterparts from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand at the Five Country Ministerial meeting in London to deliberate how to tackle online child sexual abuse.

Ministers agreed to work together on designing a set of voluntary principles that will ensure online platforms have the systems required to stop the viewing and sharing of child sexual abuse material, the grooming of children online, and the livestreaming of child sexual abuse.

St Catherine’s Hill & Town Common Management Plan

Management works have been ongoing over the last few weeks on both ARC (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust) land and BCP land.

Felling was completed prior to Christmas and the removal of timber and woodchip is underway. This has all been hampered and complicated by the almost continuous rain, which started in late September. The contractors are on site tidying the areas that they have worked in. Volunteers will also be carrying out a final tidy in late February/early March. 

In terms of grant funding, BCP Council entered a new five-year Countryside Stewardship agreement in January 2019, although documentation did not come through until 21 February, making works impossible last winter. Funding for capital works is front loaded in these agreements, so that these must be completed within the first 24 months (i.e. by 31 December 2020). That gives just 11 months to obtain a new felling licence and get the planned felling works complete. That will be tight.

Our understanding is that ARC do not currently have capital funding for large scale works for next winter yet, although they do have capacity to carry out works in-house.

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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