Dear Sir,

I share the views of my colleague, Cllr Peter Pawlowski, about standards in the new Council (Letters: 28 March 2019). Another priority will be to tackle the democratic deficit inherent in this local government re-organisation.

Price Waterhouse Cooper first warned of the danger in 2016 but each time I raised the matter at full Council in Poole, it was ignored. The deficit is not merely that 76 elected members will now do work previously undertaken by 125 but staffing levels have also been slashed: a 25 per cent reduction in staff on the IT Helpdesk for example.

I was part of a working group which proposed a Listening Committee for Overview & Scrutiny in the new Council. This would have allowed residents direct access to elected members but it was removed from the draft Constitution by the Shadow Executive Committee. While I understand the need for a scheme of delegation in planning matters, it has always been a democratic principle that the public could opt to have their application decided by elected members of the planning committee.

By the same token, elected members could call-in an application for decision by the committee instead of it being made by unelected officers using delegated powers.

Now, elected members must persuade these officers that there are planning reasons for the call-in: the concerns of residents no longer being a sufficient reason.

This is where democratic deficit will be felt most. I have twice successfully objected to applications which planning officers had recommended for grant.

They were developments which would have had a catastrophic impact on the lives of my constituents had they been granted.

If the public perceive that decision making has moved from their elected representatives to unelected officers, it will further undermine the democratic process in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Yours faithfully

Marion Pope

Prospective Independent Councillor

Bearwood & Merley Ward

BCP Council