Massive changes for Dorset's local authorities

The Lib Dems want to make sure your voice is heard.

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How can you have your say?

Up to now the Tory Administration has kept us in the dark but now there is chance for you to have your say. For full details of the public consultation visit: www.reshapingyourcouncils.uk 

You can also attend a local road show near you detailing the plans. The following road shows will run in Mid Dorset and North Poole:

Thursday 15 September 10.00AM-3.00PM at Broadstone Budgens, 182 Lower Blandford Road.
Saturday 17 September 9.30AM-1.30PM at Wimborne Outside HSBC, West Street.
Thursday 29 September 11AM-4PM at Poole Asda, Culliford Crescent, Canford Heath.
Saturday 15 October 10AM-2PM at Wareham Sainsbury's, South Street.

For a full list of road shows across Dorset, click here.

So what are the proposals?

The four options are:

Option 1: Retaining all nine councils

Option 2a: Large Conurbation (Bournemouth, Christchurch, East Dorset and Poole, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area) and Small Dorset (North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area)

Option 2b: Medium Conurbation (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area) and Medium Dorset (East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area)

Option 2c: Small Conurbation (Bournemouth and Poole) and Large Dorset (Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland, plus the services currently provided by Dorset County Council in this area)

An option no longer being considered is a single unitary authority across the whole of Dorset. This has been rejected by the council leaders because it would have to have an elected mayor. Why haven’t residents been allowed to have their say on this matter.

Why change?

The driving force behind these proposals is the Government’s planned withdrawal of grant funding as part of its austerity programme. Local councils will have to become self-funding and it is believed by some that only by merging existing councils can vast sums of money be saved.

The consultation documents assume that the only solution to the funding issue is for council’s to merge but we feel it is important you have a balanced approach to the consultation so that you can base your responses upon a wider perspective and emphasise the issues that matter to you. The table below sets out some of the advantages and disadvantages as we see them.

Potential Benefits

Potential Disadvantages

Financial savings. Even if there are savings there is always a high financial cost in the actual process of merging.

Level of savings cannot be accurately calculated since it depends on a number of factors including reduced number of councillors, levels of officer redundancy, use of buildings.

Fewer councillors. It is proposed to reduce the number of councillors by at least 1/3.

Wards will be larger with each councillor having an increased number of constituents to support, consequently there is likely to be a reduced level of personal service and reduction in efficiency.

Reduced number of employees.

Redundancy costs will be high. Will there remain enough staff to support the required level of service. It is unlikely service delivery will improve.

No duplication of services.

Depending upon level of employee redundancies there could well be a reduction in level of service provision

Better urban integration but Poole, Bournemouth and Dorset already work in partnership, eg adult education, benefits services, and transportation services.

Would Poole lose its very special identity? Decisions made from Bournemouth as there would be more Bournemouth Councillors than Poole Councillors.

Councils no longer dependent upon government grants.

Money to be raised through council tax. Poole has the lowest council tax so through council tax equalisation Poole residents will be faced with higher levels of increase than elsewhere for the next 20 years but there will be no increase in level of services. The majority of any investment will move eastwards to the areas of greatest deprivation.

Unlike the Dorset Unitary there would be no town or parish councils.

Decision making will be far more centralised with little or no local decision making. Note that Poole Conservative administration refused to provide additional funding for Area Committees and subsequently scrapped them altogether.

Centralised decision making.

There would be no local decision-making or accountability.

 

Interestingly Oxford councils have decided not to progress options to merge because they could not agree for a variety of reasons, including many of those outlined above. This decision was made even though there were projected savings of £113 million.

The Conservative leader of Poole Council is refusing to hold a referendum on this very important issue but Cllr. Mike Brooke believes residents should not only have their say but should actually make the final decision. However, the decision to merge has in effect already been made and the bias in the consultation document directs respondents this way. But it is crucial everyone reflects on the advantages and the disadvantages of all options including a single unitary. The real question is to what extent will the public be listened to when they have been kept in the dark for almost a whole year. 

You can access the consultation information via this link: www.reshapingyourcouncils.uk


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