CHRISTCHURCH residents could see a 1.95 per cent rise in their council tax this year - despite heavy criticism of any increases from minister Eric Pickles.

Councillors at Christchurch are being asked to approve the rise at the resources committee on Wednesday, after recommendations from officers.

It will mean a Band D property in the borough will pay £177.98, an increase of £3.40 from £174.58 this year.

The move comes days after the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles hit out at councils which set rises just under two per cent - the figure that would force them to put the rise to a referendum.

Earlier this week we revealed Poole was also "dodging democracy" by imposing a 1.95% rise.

But despite the condemnation from the Conservative Government minister, officers have blamed the rise on the cut in Government grant.

Over the past two years, the grant to Christchurch council has been cut by 28 per cent, with a further cut of 10 per cent in the like-for-like grant for the coming financial year.

Ian Milner, head of finance said: “The Government's own calculations show that their cut in grant for next year reduces the council's spending power by £4.88 per household in Christchurch, yet we would only be raising £2.74 per household through the proposed council tax increase - just over half of the loss in spending power.

“The joint service strategy with East Dorset District Council has generated significant savings enabling the council to contain its council tax increase to 6p per week whilst still protecting frontline services.”

Cllr Mike Duckworth, portfolio holder for performance at Christchurch council said: “I will be recommending to my colleagues that this small increase it agreed.

“Our joint services strategy with East Dorset is set to deliver a million pounds in savings for the council and has helped to ensure services which our residents value are protected.

“We believe that with further savings and a strategy of ongoing below inflation increases in council tax, we will not need to cut frontline services despite the year-on-year cuts in government grant that will continue for the foreseeable future.”

Christchurch council's part of the council tax is around 11 per cent of the total amount raised in the borough.

The majority of council tax is raised by Dorset County Council with around 11 per cent going to Dorset Police Authority and four per cent to Dorset Fire.