The new Chairman of Highcliffe Residents Association has written to James Brokenshire the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on behalf of residents of Highcliffe, to express great concern that there may be delay in harmonising Council Tax rates within the new unitary authority following the impending merger of Christchurch with Bournemouth and Poole. This will adversely affect inhabitants of Highcliffe, which statistically has one of the highest proportions of old-age pensioners and low-income families in the country.
Ian says “We in Christchurch have for some time been paying a higher rate of Council Tax than Bournemouth and Poole - typically some 9% or 12% of late. This has enabled Christchurch Borough Council to build up prudent financial reserves - as compared with the other two Councils who have taken on debt to balance their books, and so have avoided charging their residents with the full cost of services year by year.
It seems now that, in addition to the likely use of Christchurch’s reserves to reduce debts incurred by other Councils, our residents may also be required to continue paying Council Tax at a higher rate than the residents of Bournemouth and Poole, even though they will receive hopefully identical services from the new authority as from the outset - and even though the unification was voted against by the vast majority of Christchurch residents.
I’m sure that you will understand the dismay that this prospect arouses in the people of Christchurch– and especially in the case of Highcliffe, which is at the Eastern end of Dorset and all too easily overlooked when resource decisions are made.
We believe that in all justice a single Council Tax rate should apply to the whole of the new combined Authority from the first day.
We have been advised that harmonisation from day one is the usual situation, and we see no acceptable reason for different treatment in our area. Any alternative could be seen as effectively requiring the Old Age Pensioners of Highcliffe and the young families Christchurch to be subsidising the wealthy property owners of Sandbanks, Canford Cliffs and Branksome!”
The HRA will continue to represent members interests on this matter and will inform the members of a reply when it is received.