The executive continues to meet every month even though there is currently little activity. Once again we are waiting for revised responses from Poole Borough Council without which it is not possible to complete the required update of the draft Neighbourhood Plan. This work is necessary in order to comply with legislation and to progress the Plan to the next stage of its development. This delay has caused us a further problem since our latest grant was time limited and should have been used by now. On October 31st we applied for an extension until 31st January and we are pleased that this has been approved. These delays, which have been out of our control, are extremely frustrating for everyone involved, especially since the plan developed by Poole Quays Forum has been progressed by the Borough of Poole with very little delay. Not only has it undergone a successful inspection but is now being recommended to go out to referendum. We do, however, extend our congratulations to Poole Quays Forum and wish them every success.
In the November update it was mentioned that we would be submitting a response to the consultation on the proposed council mergers. This we did. Our comments were based upon numerous conversations with residents who had raised their concerns with us; on discussions during the Council’s road show and at our executive meetings. What follows is a summary of the key points.
- We agreed with the focus on cutting out duplication and reducing administrative costs.
- We did not agree that it was necessary to replace the existing 9 councils with 2 new councils
- Accountability, quality of service, Local identity, access to services and value for money were all regarded as being of equal importance.
- We disagreed with all three options presented for the two new councils.
- General comments:
- the survey was strongly biased in favour of one specific option. Through the text and by discounting the no change option respondents were led inevitably to choose one of the 2 council options.
- the public were not given all the available options, for example partnership working, a single unitary council, a combined council. These had been dismissed by council leaders without discussion with all councillors.
- Poole residents would face larger council tax increases than residents in other authorities over a 20 year period as a consequence of council tax harmonisation. They would not necessarily experience improved services or additional investment in their area.
- With a reduced number of councillors, money would be saved but there would be an increased risk of reduced accessibility and local accountability.
- There would be a tendency for power and decision making to be more centralised with a subsequent decline in localism.
- Inward investment and economic development would be more likely to be centrally focused with Bournemouth gaining more than Poole. What then for Poole town centre and local centres such as Broadstone?
- The whole focus was on finance with no consideration given to other factors such as culture, heritage and local identity, all of which had been raised by residents as being of importance to them.
We await the outcome of the consultation and the councils’ decisions with interest, especially since the response rate appears to be little more than 2%.
Chair, Broadstone Neighbourhood Forum