A big issue at the moment is the consultation on the options being put forward by all nine Dorset Councils with regard to the shape of possible mergers. The underlying reasoning behind the proposals is money. Over the last few years, as part of the Government’s austerity programme, grants to councils have been significantly reduced. By 2019 councils will be totally responsible for raising the finances needed to support the services they provide because Government will have ceased providing grants. It is argued that merging councils will save a significant amount of money and so enable most, if not all, services to continue. Whilst this is the likely outcome of a merger it is not possible to know at this stage what the financial costs will be and therefore exactly how much will actually be saved.
But there is more to the merger of councils than just saving money. There are issues of council tax equalisation. No matter which other authorities Poole merges with Broadstone residents will be faced with up to 20 years of higher than average annual council tax increases because Poole’s council tax is currently the lowest in Dorset. It is unlikely residents will receive any improved services as a result. Will residents therefore be getting value for money? Other issues to consider include the lack of local accountability and opportunity for local decision making. A merger with Bournemouth or Bournemouth and Christchurch is likely to mean greater centralisation of power. Is this what you want or would you rather have greater involvement in decision making at a more local level?
I attended the road show which was held at Budgens in the Broadway on the 15th September. It was good to speak with a number of residents who wished to find out more about the proposals and the consultation. I cannot stress enough the need to become involved in this consultation. This is the most important change in local government since Poole became a Unitary Authority in 1997, and it affects every one of us. Please do make every effort to complete the consultation document. If you leave it to others you may not get what you want. Details, and the consultation document, can be accessed via www.reshapingyourcouncils.uk The consultation process closes on 25th October.
The Gravel Hill works are progressing on schedule according to Poole’s Highways officers. The decision to keep Arrowsmith Road open has eased some of the anticipated traffic congestion though the impacts are still significant at specific times and have knocked on to other areas beyond Broadstone. At least we are not seeing as many heavy lorries as was feared, but with the old Poole Bridge now closed for 9 months there are likely to be issues in the centre of Poole.
I am pleased to report that, following my meeting with the company’s planning consultant and correspondence with our highway engineers, hoardings around the site have been re-aligned. This should make it safer to cross Dunyeats Road near the roundabout. Traffic associated with the work has not been too much of a problem at this stage but when construction gets underway early next year there could be issues with the delivery of heavy materials. I will be monitoring the situation.
My next two surgeries are on Saturday 1st October and 5th November in Broadstone Library from 10.00am ‘til 12.00 noon.