KEEP CHRISTCHURCH SPECIAL
Keep Christchurch Special is a group which has come together to ensure any changes to Dorset’s local government structure result in the people of Christchurch keeping control of the things that make our Borough special.
Who are we?
We are people who live or work in the Ancient Borough. Some others were born here: some others have lived here for many years; and others are people who have only recently come to live here but who have fallen in love with Christchurch. But for all of us, Christchurch is very special and we want to keep it that way.
We are not a party political group. We are a cross-party campaigning group.
We have people who are Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Independent and UKIP among our supporters, as well as people who have no political allegiance. We are not a council body, though many councillors support us in trying to keep Christchurch special. We aren’t a residents’ association, but our coordinator Chris Hopkins is chairman of the Somerford Community Partnership and we hope to work closely with the various Residents’ Associations. Ultimately, we want to give people the chance to freely debate the future of our borough.
What are we worried about?
The government is changing the way it gives financial support to local councils. It has made it very clear that it wants to see groups of authorities joining up as single councils and then these larger councils, working together, using new powers devolved by central government to run at their areas more efficiently
There are two likely options for Christchurch: to join up with Bournemouth and Poole in a “greater Bournemouth” or to join the rest of Dorset in a “Dorset shire authority.” We are very concerned that control over the things that make Christchurch special will pass to a remote authority which are knows little about Christchurch and cares less.
The timetable for this is very tight. All the Dorset councils agreed to ask outside bodies to produce independent assessments of the likely financial effects of these new structures, but we are very concerned that any proposals for change should not just be based on financial assessments, which in previous reorganisations have been very wide of the mark. Other things, like a sense of place should have equal importance.
How can we try to keep Christchurch special?
The Act which enables these changes says that change should come because residents want to see changes: it should be “bottom-up”, not “top-down.” So there must be “consultation.” Our Council’s Scrutiny Committee has called for the widest possible consultation, and we hope that Christchurch Council will soon be debating, not the changes themselves but how we should judge whether a change will be in the best interests of Christchurch.
We are not yet recommending any one option. What we are seeking to ensure is that in any structure which does emerge, not only should the factors which make Christchurch special be protected but Christchurch should continue, as far as possible to control the future of these factors. But we don’t – yet – have enough information to make a definite choice.
We want to make information available as widely as possible. On this website you will find all the documents that have gone to the Borough Council and the County Council and the discussions, the minutes of meetings, and any other relevant information we can find. Please feel free to download and distribute this information as you wish.
There is also space for your comments and your views and ideas.
We have a Facebook page to help capture your ideas and to exchange news.
Public meetings have been held to discuss the different choices. These were well-attended, and we thank all who took the time to share their thoughts and ask questions.
If you’d like to support us in keeping Christchurch special and be kept in touch with developments, or if you have any questions or comments, please drop us an email to keepChristchurchspecial@gmail.com. We will not pass your details on to any other person or group.