Meeting Update: BCP Joint Committee 15/01/2018

The Joint Committee for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole held its fourth meeting on 15 January 2018.  Here’s a summary of what was discussed and agreed.

Questions and Deputations:

John Parker, Chairman of the Dorset Association of Town and Parish Councils, made a deputation.  In it he stated that the Association is keen to develop a good working relationship with Committee as it sets up the new council.  The Association represents 160 town & parish councils in Dorset, and these would remain in place alongside the new councils.

Cllr Lesley Dedman, a Christchurch Borough and Dorset County Councillor, who is not a member of the Joint Committee, asked a question about the inclusion of a Town Council for Christchurch in the council tax harmonisation figures, and about the preservation of Mayoralties.

The answers to these questions will be published alongside the minutes of the meeting.

Structural Change Orders (SCOs): These are the formal Orders that go through the Parliamentary Process to create the new Council.  They legally create it and set up a Shadow Authority as well as dealing with electoral matters.  Once the SCO is approved and until the new council exists, the Shadow Authority will consist of all 120 Members from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils, who will each nominate members to form the Shadow Executive. The Shadow Executive will be made up proportionally of sixteen councillors with eight from Bournemouth, six from Poole and two from Christchurch.  Cllr Drew Mellor (Borough of Poole) is Chair of the Joint Committee’s Task & Finish Group to consider the content of the SCOs.  He presented a report on the progress of the Task & Finish Group, which sets out the majority view that the role of the ‘Leader’ of the Shadow Authority is more akin to that of a Committee Chair as it primarily chairs the Shadow Executive, whilst each sovereign council continues with their respective Leaders until April 2019. Following this, the Joint Committee agreed that the role of ‘Leader’ be named ‘Chairman’, and would be appointed by the Shadow Executive. Members also agreed to an additional Joint Committee on 30th January at 9.30am at Bournemouth Town Hall, to consider electoral arrangements.

Disaggregation: ‘Disaggregation’ is the process for transferring the assets & resources from Dorset County Council to the new council.  The Joint Committee heard that, whilst the number of Christchurch residents is 12% of the Dorset county area population, the proportion of roads is less, at around 8%, whilst those older people receiving adult social care in Christchurch is closer to 12% of the Dorset county population. These differentials mean that disaggregation is a detailed & important workstream, and is necessary so that both new councils can set their budgets in good time for April 2019. The detailed planning & preparation for analysing services for disaggregation is complete and that service information review is now underway. The Joint Committee has previously agreed that a key principle of disaggregation is that no individual receiving care should suffer as a result of the disaggregation process.

Council Tax Harmonisation: The Joint Committee received an update from the Council Tax Harmonisation Task and Finish Group. It was noted that the Joint Committee has already asked the Task & Finish (T&F) Group to prioritise models that do not exceed the Government’s referendum limit and that also include a freeze or reduction in the absolute level of council tax (CT) paid by Christchurch residents. Chair of the T&F Group, Cllr John Beesley (Bournemouth) reported that it is not yet known if existing sovereign councils will adopt the adult social care precept (where relevant) or additional 1% council tax rise permitted by the govt in 2018/19. Therefore, the T&F Group for council tax harmonisation is unable to make a recommendation on the best model for harmonisation until the 20th March meeting, as it is not until then that all existing councils will have set their budgets.