14 June 2016
You may already be aware that Dorset County Council (DCC) is considering changing the way it is structured and moving to a Unitary Authority. This means the district / borough level of local government would be abolished. There are pros and cons to a Unitary Authority, but it will mean fewer elected councillors making decisions that will affect people county-wide. Almost everyone recognises that power is already far too removed from local communities, the proposed changes have the potential to create an even bigger gap in local democracy.
There will be a public consultation on this through July – September, a decision will be made by DCC, and should they wish to proceed with a Unitary Authority, a proposal to central government in early 2017. It is currently uncertain if DCC will apply to postpone the 2017 County Council elections, but this has been voiced in DCC meetings as a possibility.
However, you may or may not be aware that Dorset County Council, Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch have recently proposed to implement a Dorset Combined Authority (DCA). In essence this is a body of 10 members, 9 drawn from elected councillors (a sort of super-cabinet) and 1 Local Enterprise Partner (someone appointed from “big business”). The Dorset Combined Authority will have specific decision making power, covering economic growth, regeneration / infrastructure and transportation. We are concerned there will be no environmental voice on this Authority. There is worry that a programme of road building that would literally pave the way to support oil & gas exploration and production (e.g. fracking) would go unchallenged.
Why are we telling you this?
The public “consultation” for the DCA is happening right now! Our apologies we did not become aware of this earlier. But even with our eyes and ears open across Dorset, Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch this proposal and process was not on our radar until very recently. But it is now!
What can you do?
There are 3 key things we would ask you to engage in:
1. Participate in the consultation survey on the Dorset For You website. The closing date is Friday 17th June (yes, we know, it is a very hurried and low key consultation). Just click on the link below to take part in the quite short survey: https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/article/422462/Give-us-your-views-on-the-Dorset-Combined-Authority-proposals
You may wish to say that for changes as serious as this, you would expect a referendum, and not just a short consultation exercise.
2. There is information from the Dorset For You website (or Poole) about the proposed changes.
There is also a related article from East Dorset Friends of the Earth that explains more deeply the environmental concerns when Councils merge to become much larger.
This might be useful information if you want to give an informed opinion on the consultation website.
3. Write to your local town / parish, district / borough, county Councillor(s) and ask them one, some or all of the following:
There may be other things you will want to ask them, but the above are a few ideas. If you are not familiar with the names and email addresses of the local councillors, a list of the councillors at all levels by each area / ward / division can be downloaded here.
If you have any questions about the above information or would like to discuss it a bit more before taking any action, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks for taking an interest and we hope you will take some action if you can.