LOCAL GOVERNMENT REVIEW –

SHAPING DORSET UPDATE 

Attendance and statements at Shadow Authority meetings

DAPTC Chairman John Parker and I have been attending and speaking at the shadow authority meetings for both Dorset Council plus Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. Our members have been informed of our attendance through all our communication channels with updates of the actions of those shadow authorities.

The Chairman made a statement to the first meeting of the new Shadow Dorset Council on 7 June. We attended as members of the public. John made his statement in the public participation part of the meeting, reminding the Shadow Council that the parish and town council tier will remain after 1 April 2019 and that DAPTC was keen to build relationships with both shadow authorities on behalf of its members.

Devolution was also raised by John. He said:

“Devolution to town and parish councils will be a fundamental issue for shaping future services. Achieving this in an adequately resourced and cooperative manner is in the interests of all our communities.

“Our association believes it is in a unique position to be a positive voice in ensuring that our members are engaged with the new councils, not only in collaborative design of services for the many different communities in Dorset, but also in all aspects which would help build relationships and ease the implementation of change.”

The Chairman made a statement to the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the Shadow Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Authority on 15 June. We attended as members of the public. John made his statement in the public participation part of the meeting, stressing that the introduction of a brand new unitary council will make it more important than ever to keep links with the many individual communities that it will serve. As the parish and town council tier of local government will remain, that tier will have an essential role to play in representing their residents.

John said: “Our association believes it is in a unique position to be a positive voice in ensuring that our members are engaged with the new councils, not only in collaborative design of services for the many different communities in Dorset, but also in all aspects which would help build relationships, ease the implementation of change and increase the potential for local control over local matters.”

The Shadow Dorset Executive Committee has decided principles for transfer of assets to local councils. Details are in draft minute 18 at http://shadowcouncil.dorset.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MId=134&Ver=4

The Shadow Dorset Overview and Scrutiny Committee met on 31 July and as part of its work, discussed the principles. At the request of the Committee Chairman, the DAPTC Chairman John Parker was invited to speak to the Committee. As he was unable to attend due to a delayed flight, I gave a statement on his behalf which included the following points:

  • The establishment of a new unitary council is an enormous task. It is in everyone’s interests that every effort is made to provide effective services to the people of Dorset. Cooperation between the unitary tiers of local government and the parish and town council tier has never been so essential.
  • With the budgetary challenges facing the new unitary, it is even more important to use local councils as a way of connecting with individual communities. Our members have the knowledge and understanding of their residents’ needs. Let us help you shape future services in innovative and responsive ways.
  • Devolution is a fundamental issue which requires adequate resources and massive cooperation. There are some items which are clearly out of our league and we have to be mindful of council tax payers facing increases through tax harmonisation. Please let us have the opportunity to work as partners with this brand new authority to find ways to help our communities – a goal that we all have in common.

Councillor Adrian Hibberd, a member of DAPTC Executive Committee and Chairman of DAPTC Eastern Area Committee spoke of the need for improved communication about plans for the new unitary council.

Swanage Town Clerk Martin Ayres reminded the Committee of the recommendations of the Working Together Project. (The project had been led by officers from Dorset County Council, DAPTC and several Clerks, including Martin. The recommendations had received broad support from DAPTC members in December 2015 when DAPTC consulted all town and parish councils on the report’s recommendations for closer working arrangements with principal authorities).

We continue to attend meetings of both Shadow Authorities in order to raise the profile of our members and to establish relationships.

At the Shadow Dorset Executive meeting on 17 September, the future of voluntary and community sector grants was considered. Arrangements to roll over grants into 2019/20 and undertake detailed reviews of the grants in 2020/21 were decided and can be read at Minute 52 at

http://shadowcouncil.dorset.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MId=124&Ver=4

At the same meeting, no support was given by the committee to proposals in relation to the transfer of services and assets considered by West Dorset District Council to town councils in its area. More detail can be read in draft Minute 52 at the above web link.

Our members have been informed of our attendance at shadow authority meetings through all our communication channels with updates of the actions of those shadow authorities.

Liaison with to the LGR teams

I continue to keep in contact with the LGR officer teams. The Dorset LGR Programme Director attended the Clerks Seminar on 18 September. An officer from the BCP area also attended. The focus of the seminar was practical preparations for April/May 2019. Elections teams from both unitary areas attended to brief Clerks on arrangements for the elections, giving them as much information in advance as possible.

Town and parish councils plus DAPTC are listed as stakeholders for immediate engagement in the Shaping Dorset Communications Plan. I am following that up with the Dorset LGR Communications Manager. The Shaping Dorset LGR Communications Team keep me in touch with the preparation of the newsletter circulated to town and parish councils.

Community Governance Review – Christchurch

At the request of Highcliffe Residents Association, the Chairman and I attended a meeting on 2 July in Highcliffe in Christchurch about establishing parish councils. I gave a presentation on parish councils – functions and setting up. (My presentation was based on information from NALC and has been requested for use by another county association). The Chairman answered questions and gave his own experience as a parish councillor. This event coincided with the public consultation for the Community Governance Review.

Christchurch Borough Council has decided to accept the recommendations of its Community Committee that the following new local councils be created:

  • Highcliffe and Walkford Neighbourhood Council
  • Christchurch Town Council

 It also decided that Burton Parish Council and Hurn Parish Council remain with boundary amendments.  

The feedback from the public consultation contained several positive remarks from Highcliffe residents about parish councils and referred to a public meeting on the matter. It is also interesting to note that points that DAPTC has expressed on the importance of parish councils are raised in the minutes of the CBC Community Committee.

 I have established contact with the officer leading on the setting up of these new local councils.

Added 09/10/18