9th March 2019. For Immediate Release
Statement regarding the merger of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Councils into one Unitary Authority
It is with regret that other local political Parties and Groups in Christchurch appear to be wilfully misrepresenting the position of Christchurch Labour Party over the merger of the three Councils. This is a very important and emotive issue, and so I would seek to explain our position clearly here, for all to be aware.
Christchurch Labour Party deplore the massive cuts to local government funding imposed by this Conservative Government under their ideology of austerity. This is a political choice, and these cuts have also been voted for by our local MP Sir Christopher Chope (https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/10103/christopher_chope/christchurch/votes)
Due to the cuts in funding, Christchurch Borough Council (who are responsible for 13% of the budget) and Dorset County Council (who are responsible for the other 87% of the budget) would not be financially viable in their current form after 2019, which led to the survey of a proportion of residents across the County, and the decision that Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Councils should merge into one Unitary Authority.
We believe in democracy, and understand that is best achieved by having local, accessible representatives, with decision making power over local issues. The Labour Party would not have cut local government funding this way, and not forced local Councils into such a state of financial deprivation that they must act in such a drastic manner.
After almost two years of rhetoric and hand-wringing coming from our Councillors in Christchurch who were opposed to this merger, they were incapable of coming up with a single viable alternative, and it was no surprise to anyone when, in Sept 2017, Sajid Javid gave his ‘minded to’ decision to merge the Councils.
We were astounded when the Councillors of Christchurch decided to run a local poll, at the taxpayer’s expense, that they were told in no uncertain terms by the Chief Executive would have no legal bearing, and be nothing more than ‘taking the temperature of the area’ to find out if Christchurch residents were in favour of the merger or not.
The result of course was a resounding ‘no’, however, no viable alternative was put forward for consideration, and with a Council facing financial ruin unless it evolved and created huge cost savings, Christchurch Labour Party members discussed the issue at one of our monthly members’ meetings and the general feeling in the room was that we must support the merger. Since then we have not been provided with any other options by the Councillors or our local MP.
In early 2018 following the decision taken by James Brokenshire to go ahead with the planned merger, Christchurch Council had provided no reasonable excuse or alternative to the decision, we were left aghast that the Councillors should decide to spend tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money on at least two sets of legal advice (as the first one did not meet with approval apparently – or just didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear?) and then a fruitless legal challenge that was doomed to failure from the start.
We cannot pretend to be privy to the inner working of the Council, which is opaque at best, but looking in from the outside our Councillors in Christchurch have been lacklustre over the last few years, on this matter and others. They are weak, incapable of organisation of resources and ideas and we feel that local residents in Christchurch have every right to be concerned that the Conservative Councillors will be forced to tow the line, even when it is detrimental to Christchurch.
Christchurch Labour Party were not in favour of the merger, but understands that financially there is no alternative. We have embraced that reality and will work tirelessly to be the strong voice our communities so badly need and deserve, and will stand up to this Conservative cabal who do not represent your best interests.
Chair and BCP Council Candidate