CONURBATION residents should pay the same council tax from day one, a residents' group has urged.

Highcliffe Residents' Association has written to communities secretary James Brokenshire expressing concern over the plans to 'harmonise' council tax across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole when the new unitary council forms next April.

In his letter, Ian Hartnell says: "We in Christchurch have for some time been paying a higher rate of council tax than Bournemouth and Poole – typically some nine or 12 per cent of late."

Mr Hartnell says the current proposal to synchronise council tax rates between the boroughs over a period of up to seven years 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".

"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," Mr Hartnell says in the letter.

"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."

He added: "Any alternative could be seen as effectively requiring the old age pensioners of Highcliffe and the young families of Christchurch to be subsidising the wealthy property owners of Sandbanks, Canford Cliffs and Branksome."

Last month parliamentary under-secretary for local government Rishi Sunak said a "preliminary view" on the approach to council tax harmonisation would be released "as soon as practicable".