THE leader of Bournemouth Council has praised the work of local community forums, saying "it would make no sense" for the new combined authority to not back them financially.

Cllr John Beesley, speaking at a meeting of Boscombe Forum, was pressed by residents in attendance to pledge funds to ensure the community meetings were safeguarded.

He said: "We have to wait and see who is elected in May, then who forms the administration, then who becomes the leader of the new council.

"At this point I cannot, nor can anyone else, tie their hands. I am not in a position to promise anything because I don't know if I'll even be elected.

"However, I certainly would be hugely supportive of making sure adequate funding was available."

Earlier, during the forum held at King's Park Academy, Bournemouth, Robert Hughes, who announced himself as an independent candidate who would be contesting the May elections, highlighted concerns about the smaller numbers of councillors under the new unitary Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

When the new authority comes into being, next month, there will be 76 councillors, a reduction from 125 in the current three separate authorities.

Cllr Beesley said: "How people are represented and the work that happens in this forum – and other forums across Bournemouth – will always be really important.

"I go to as many as I am invited to, I don't get invited to all of them and I don't get invited back as frequently as I would like to.

"What is important here is the interface between local residents and the people who are representing them. At the same time, it is important those that are not present are not ignored either.

"I'm sure the new authority will be looking at the funding of forums as it progresses during its first year."