HELP us get fairer funding for you - that's the plea from Poole council's leader, urging residents to join the battle for a better deal.

The fourth most expensive place in the world to live receives the fourth worst government settlement given to unitary authorities, to pay for services for its people.

A dire warning has been given that unless funding improves there would have to be drastic cuts in essential services, such as social services, in future years.

"We are looking for a fair deal," said council leader Cllr Brian Leverett, and the opposition Liberal Democrats said they would welcome an invitation to support the council in lobbying government for better funding.

Over the past three years residents have received exactly half of the grant per head given to other unitary authorities due to an unfair funding formula, Cllr Leverett said.

Concerned that every year Poole is falling further and further behind, the Conservative-run Borough of Poole is asking people to make their feelings known.

"It's more than simply saying we are poorly funded," said Cllr Leverett, who, along with deputy leader Cllr Ann Stribley, is leading the fight.

"I want to say to the people of Poole: write to Tony Blair - the buck stops at 10 Downing Street - and express in their own words their total dissatisfaction," he said.

Average house prices in Poole were 10 times more than full time salaries in 2005, compared with 8.2 for Bournemouth. However house prices in Poole had jumped 5.7 per cent in the last three months.

"Why do Leicester, Middlesborough, Nottingham and Kingston-upon-Hull receive three times as much per head of population as Poole?", asked Cllr Leverett.

The inequality can be graphically demonstrated closer to home where borough boundaries split roads in half.

In Spicer Lane, Bearwood, people living on the Poole side get £168 per head while Bournemouth residents get £294.

"Bournemouth is slightly below the average and we are getting £170 per head of population below average," he said.

"We are not criticising Bournemouth or saying they should get less," said Cllr Stribley. "We need more. If we got the same we would be absolutely ecstatic."

She said it made no sense that Poole received £128 less to spend per child on education than Bournemouth.

Or that similar sized Torbay, with 2,000 fewer residents over 60, got an extra £1.2 million to pay for their concessionary bus service while Poole received £800,000.

"We are being penalised for being a successful council," said Cllr Leverett, adding that every representation made to a succession of ministers had fallen on deaf ears.

Cllr Brian Clements for the Lib Dems said they needed to be specific about examples and the Torbay buses seemed a good example to make their case.

"The way the system works means that Poole residents are expected to meet 72 per cent of the council's budget," he said.

"Residents of Bournemouth pay 59 per cent whilst the figure drops dramatically where property values are lower. Hull residents, for example, only have to find 35 per cent of their council's spending and those in Liverpool 34 per cent," he said.

Warning that the future looks bleak, Cllr Leverett's budget forecast now is for a £3-£3.5 million shortfall.

And with a five per cent cap on council tax, cuts and savings are the only alternative.

"We have been squeezing for efficiencies until the pips squeak," said Cllr Stribley.

"We have come to the point where we have got to say we cut the service or we put up the charges," she said.

Cllr Leverett said: "The only services we can cut are the significant ones with big budgets, like social services.

"We are determined to protect the service for the people of Poole. This is why we are asking everyone to get behind it so we can ensure these essential services for years to come," he added.