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Hitch-Hiker's Guide to The CyberCity: Public Services

These "Hitch-Hiker's guides" are a series of basic, annotated hypertext guides (i.e. with clickable URLs*) to the Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole conurbation as it exists online, indicating gateway sites and other starting points to the various major categories of local-interest website, from arts to tourism. The first of these guides is below, covering Council and other public-services information websites.

*URL =Uniform Resource Locator - the technical name for a website address such as http://www.bournemouth.gov.uk


Table Of Contents
This guide covers the following type of website - click on a section heading.
Local Council Information Sites
Emergency Services
Other Multi-Jurisdiction Services
Members Of Parliament and MEPs
Political Parties
Regional Government













Local Council Information Sites

As part of the Government’s commitment to ‘e-Government,’ all three tiers of government (national, County, and Borough or District Council) are required to provide online information regarding their services, on official ‘dot-gov’ sites, i.e. those with ‘.gov.uk’ top-level domains.

For purely local services (such as discovering where to complain about refuse collection), the best point of entry would be the home page of the relevant local Council site. The last Local Gov’t Reorganisation split Bournemouth and Poole (but not Christchurch) from Dorset as two separate new Unitary Authorities. These ‘UA’ sites would be Bournemouth Borough Council, and Poole Borough Council. Both sites are extensive, and searchable. Local Council websites are also more interactive than they were a few years ago, with forms to submit info, and email addresses or contact forms for the various service departments. If you can’t find the email address you need, each site also usually has a general address which will forward queries to the appropriate department, with the user-name ‘enquiries’ e.g. Bournemouth’s is enquiries@bournemouth.gov.uk .

The other type of site of interest here is one aimed at tourists but is useful from a leisure viewpoint, for information about amenities like museums and swimming pools. Both Bournemouth and Poole maintain separate ‘.com’ sites here: Bournemouth Tourist Information Guide and PooleTourism.com, and Bournemouth, confusingly, also has a 2nd such site, a ‘.co.uk’ one for their Visitor Information Bureau, titled the Bournemouth Tourism Home Page.

The east end of the conurbation, Christchurch, remains by choice an enclave of Dorset. So, though Christchurch still has its own dedicated ‘co.uk’ tourism site, the official Christchurch Borough Council ‘gov.uk’ URL now just offers a redirect to a dot-com county-wide services gateway called Dorset For You. To avoid duplication of content, the County and its constituent district and borough councils, with two exceptions (Purbeck and Weymouth) in early 2005 set up the ‘Dorset For You Partnership’, with this shared-info site. There is a link onsite to each of the two ‘non-partner’ councils, Purbeck and Weymouth, if you need them. Some earlier sites like the County Council’s ‘dorsetcc.gov.uk’ site and East Dorset DC’s eastdorset.gov.uk and West Dorset DC’s site have now been closed down and just offer a link to the new DFY site. Dorset For You is now the best general point of entry to the maze of council services outside Bournemouth and Poole.

Local Councillors: Council sites all list email addresses for the relevant departments to contact for each service. However contacting the Councillor for your electoral ward is a slightly different matter as they are also political figures with party interests. Their email addresses are usually given on the relevant Council sites already listed, but they will also be contactable via the official party website.

Nevertheless, Councillors email addresses also have a standard format in each case, so that once you know this, and the name of the councillor, you can work out his or her email address. Bournemouth Councillors’ addresses are in the format: firstname.surname@bournemouth.gov.uk  (e.g. Cllr Stephen Chappell’s is  stephen.chappell@bournemouth.gov.uk ). Christchurch councillor email addresses are in the format: cllr.isurname@christchurch.gov.uk, where ‘i’ is their initial, (e.g. Cllr Chris Legg’s is cllr.clegg@christchurch.gov.uk ). Poole councillor email addresses are given onsite as links which are sometimes to their administrative support officer, but are in the format: i.surname@poole.gov.uk , where ‘i’ is their initial.  
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Emergency Services

To summon help in an emergency you would just phone 999, and ask for police, fire ambulance or coast guard. However if you need info, the various emergency  services all have their own sites. A page with a list you can print out, of useful phone numbers (for gas, water etc emergencies) can be found on a private site, Bournemouth Info - Emergency Numbers.

Despite the 1990s Local Gov’t Reorganisation which split Dorset into 3 authorities, the emergency services are still provided on a county-wide basis to reduce overhead. In Bournemouth and Poole, policing is still provided by the Dorset Police Authority, and fire / rescue services by Dorset Fire Authority. If you live east of the conurbation over the Hampshire boundary, the police and fire authorities are Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service. Maritime emergencies and safety matters are dealt with by a national agency, HM Coastguard, whose Search & Rescue heli-base is at Portland.

The conurbation has two hospitals with 24-7 Accident & Emergency, or Casualty, departments: Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Poole Hospital. Christchurch Hospital does not have an A&E Dept. The next closest NHS hospital with a full range of services (partly as it is a staff-training establishment) is Southampton General Hospital. Bournemouth Nuffield Hospital, the largest of its kind, offers private medical services.

For non-hospital services, such as finding a doctor, the main health authority is  Poole Primary Care Trust , which administers both hospital and non-hospital services, with a jurisdiction extending outside the town of Poole, into Bournemouth. For Christchurch and other parts of Dorset County, such services are provided via Dorset Health Care NHS Trust which provides services for ‘East Dorset and surrounding areas’. (Note that the URL given on local directory sites, dorsethealthcare.org, simply goes to a commercial holding page.) Dorset Ambulance [NHS Trust] also has its own site.  Return To Top

Other Multi-Jurisdiction Services

There are also some cross-conurbation agencies which represent all 3 municipalities jointly, indicated by the initials BCP [Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole], or BDP [Bournemouth-Dorset-Poole] where (like the police and fire services) they act not only on behalf of the County Council but the two new separate Unitary Authorities.

The conurbation already reaches into the jurisdictions of some of the County’s District Councils, as with Ferndown, which is part of East Dorset DC, and thus covered by the Dorset For You site. (There are also two dedicated sites for Ferndown, but neither of these is official, or working at present – nor are three different Wimborne sites listed in local online directories.) East of Christchurch, the conurbation continues along the coast as part of Hampshire County Council jurisdiction. (There is still some campaigning to have Christchurch and Bournemouth restored as part of Hampshire, where they were pre-1974.)

If you work in the conurbation but commute in daily from a home farther afield, the relevant District  Council sites for residential matters would be those of either New Forest DC (heading east), North Dorset DC (northwest), or (heading westward), Purbeck DC , Weymouth & Portland BC, or West Dorset DC . If your home is north of Christchurch up the Avon Valley, where boundaries criss-cross the road, it may be in Hampshire County Council area or in Wiltshire CC area. There are also links on these sites to a less well-known fourth tier of government, a relic of when the Church Of England controlled many aspects of life, the village-based parish councils (think The Vicar Of Dibley), which survive in some rural districts and are allowed to have official ‘gov.uk’ names. Parish Councils are entitled to tax levies - in 2008-09, amounting to 323 million, and sometimes share costs with District Councils, such as a village constable.

Library services: are still provided by each local authority, but have an inter-library loan system. Wherever you live, you can search online the collections of Bournemouth Library and Poole Library as well as Dorset Library Services (of which Christchurch Library is part).

Public Transport Services: Although increasingly run by private companies for profit, public transport services remain a major political and public-interest issue. Bournemouth bus services are run by Yellow Buses, long owned by Bournemouth Corporation but now being sold off as uneconomic, and by Wilts & Dorset Buses, who also have this site to promote their new red buses and routes, which continue to extend across Dorset into Wiltshire. Train services are provided mainly by Southwest Trains. Flight information can be obtained via Bournemouth Airport. [Note the URL listed in some directories, bia.co.uk, has no local info.]  Return To Top

Members Of Parliament and MEPs

At the national level of government, you can now find information about, and contact, MPs via sites maintained by their political parties, and through the House of Commons website, and sometimes through the MP’s own personal website. This is a considerable improvement on the situation a few years ago.
Soon after the idea of ‘e-government’ was announced in 2000, there was pressure for MPs to be accessible online, especially as often MPs no longer live locally, as they have jobs in London, and tend to get out of touch with their constituencies. However there were moans from MPs and the Prime Minister that all people did was complain and heap abuse. (The PM actually shut down his interactive ‘Number 10’ website for this reason.) And, MPs complained, the level of literacy in emails was even worse than the people who wrote old-fashioned letters to them – the dreaded ‘green ink brigade.’ The new DorsetForYou site already mentioned lists contact details for MPs and MEPs – but postal rather than email addresses (though you don’t need a stamp to post to your MP).

An official listing of MPs’ contact details, include email addresses and websites where these exist, is provided on the House of Commons website. Its listing, for use only by constituents, leads to pages which do not give the actual email address but an enquiry form you fill in online.

Certain 3rd-party sites have been created for the public to email their MP, particularly around election times, such as TheyWorkForYou.com which has info on MPs’ stances on issues voting patterns etc. The site also has a ‘Contact Details’ link, using info it says is taken from The Guardian.

Some addresses are given here, presumably voluntarily. However, all you need in fact to guess the email address is the MP’s name, as their email addresses are, as with councillors’, in standard form, thus:  surnamei@parliament.uk , where ‘i’ is their initial. For example, Bournemouth West MP John Butterfill is butterfillj@parliament.uk , and Mid-Dorset & Poole North MP Annette Brooke is brookea@parliament.uk.)

There is of course no guarantee MPs will read email sent them. Some also have personal email addresses, but again whether mail sent there is actually read is impossible to say – they may be obsolete addresses, and the accounts may have their spam-filter settings set on ‘high’. MPs’ websites, which would also include contact details, are also listed on TheyWorkForYou.com, though these may be out-of-date or incorrect. (For example, Annette Brooke’s site is given as annettebrookemp.org, whereas it should be annettebrooke.org.uk .) The best prospect seems to be to use the House of Commons enquiry form.

MEPs: To obtain info on, or contact your MEP, the best approach (if googling is unproductive) is probably via the party websites – see below.  Return To Top

Political Parties

Online presence has become increasingly important to political parties (During the last election campaign, there were instances of local candidates’ websites being hijacked or otherwise interfered with, so you should be aware a site you find on Google is not necessarily a legitimate one – it may have been put up by a rival party or candidate.) Political parties all have official websites which provide info about their policies and progress.

These may or may not, however supply contact details for their member MPs and, during election campaigns, also for their PPCs [Prospective Parliamentary Candidates]. If they don’t provide appropriate email links, parties also have local constituency associations, which usually offer a way of getting in touch with the local MP via the CA’s agent or the MP’s own local constituency-office agent. For example, the Conservative Party site does not have a directory per se, but there is an enter-your-postcode search box leading to links for your local MP and their constituency association, e.g. John Butterfill mentioned above has a bio including an email contact link via Bournemouth West Conservative Association, and the email address of the BWCA agent. New Labour’s party site has an ‘In Your Area’ top link, though this just leads to having to click through several pages, tabs, and in-page links to narrow down the geographical focus (you can also search by postcode), to your local constituency, ending up on an MP’s bio page that has an email link not to him but merely to a forwarding address for regional email  [southwest@new.labour.org.uk]. The main LibDem party site is similar but less elaborate with fewer clicks required, and they also have a regional website and a local one.  All three main party sites include links to their own MEPs’ websites.  Return To Top

Regional Government

There is also a proposed new tier of government – the Regional Assembly. Regional Assemblies were officially planned in the late 1990s as ‘chambers’ (as in chambers of commerce) -- economic-development agencies. Whitehall wanted to then use them to replace the rather troublesome present patchwork of local authorities with a single body. (The term ‘Assembly’ being a giveaway here.) In each region, dozens of county, district and borough councils would, at a stroke, be supplanted by the equivalent of a US state government, beginning in 2006. What the BBC called ‘Mr Prescott's big idea’ – ‘regional devolution’  via ‘elected regional assemblies’ - has officially been abandoned for the moment after a 2004 referendum in the NE. Nevertheless, they remain as unelected bodies, and there is a plan under consideration to amalgamate existing local-authority services such as the police into regional ones to save money. In this area, the South West Regional Assembly, with 117 members representing 51 existing council jurisdictions, is the designated official economic-development planning body for the region, covering an area with a population of almost five million. Locally, the authorities involved in the SWRA are: Bournemouth BC, Christchurch BC, Dorset CC, East Dorset DC, Poole BC, and Purbeck DC.  Return To Top

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Community & Directory Sites

There are also a number of private ‘community’ sites, often with more specific jurisdictions, and a number of services-directory sites covering the conurbation (and often beyond), but these will be covered in separate e-guides.  


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