Sold down the river: Poole Council is discussing too many issues behind closed doors say opposition councillors

D1PJ8T Poole Borough Council Coat of Arms 'Ad Morem Villae de Poole' displayed on the harbour bridge

REFUSAL to hold a referendum over proposals for a combined unitary authority was the latest example of the “democratic deficit” plaguing Poole.

So says Cllr Mike Brooke, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Borough of Poole, who sought to ensure through a motion that a referendum was held so residents had a say over proposals by the leaders of Poole, Bournemouth, Christchurch and East Dorset for a single unitary authority.

But the motion, supported by the leader of Poole People, was defeated by the Conservative administration which approved a rival motion which calls for “full scrutiny and suitable consultation” to be carried out.

“This is a kick in the face for democracy and people having a proper say, as opposed to a say that the council wants,” said Cllr Brooke, who is now calling for a Citizens Assembly, a conference to discuss all the issues.

This comes after:

  • axing of the council’s area committees

  • cancellation of the yearly State of the Area debate

  • lack of scrutiny with important issues going straight to cabinet.

  • and crucial matters such as this being discussed behind closed doors.

“It is absolutely critical to ensure that a combined authority keeps the independence of these authorities, that we maintain a Poole authority. A partnership,” said Cllr Brooke.

“That makes it totally different from what the ‘Gang of Four’ merger means, a single council with no independent identity whatsoever.”

A meeting of the full council approved proposals for a combined economic development authority for Dorset, of all nine authorities, which does not preclude any future combined unitary authority, he said.

However serious concerns have been raised by fellow Lib Dem Cllr Philip Eades over voting rights which would see Poole contributing 19.75 per cent of the funds for one-ninth of the votes. He has called for the authority to be constituted along the lines of Dorset Fire Authority which has 15 members, three from Poole.

Cllr Brooke said there was a “total abuse of power” and Poole residents were being “sold down the river”.