THE leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole shadow authority has written to the government supporting the Secretary of State’s council tax plans for the borough.

Despite opposition from Christchurch councillors, Cllr Janet Walton received the support of other members of the shadow executive committee to write, backing the government’s proposed approach to the issue.

The ‘harmonisation’ of council tax has been the most contentious part of the planned merger of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils with each authority currently paying different rates.

Last month, local government minister Rishi Sunak wrote to Cllr Walton saying that the government was “minded to” require that council tax is levelled within a maximum of seven years.

A draft financial order is due to be drawn-up by the end of the month which will include legislation surrounding the transfer of technical functions to the new unitary authority.

It will set out requirements for the harmonisation of council tax to bring the levels in each of the three areas in line with each other.

A working group of the shadow authority has established a preferred approach to how this will be done with Christchurch rates frozen for six years until the Bournemouth and Poole areas catch-up in 2025/26.

Christchurch councillors have argued that this approach is “unfair” and have called for rates to be brought in line with each other from the first day of the new council’s existence.

However, to avoid an increase exceeding 2.99 per cent in any one year – a move which would require a referendum be held, the shadow authority is working towards the principle of a seven-year process.

With the lowest bills currently, Poole residents would face a 2.83 per cent rise over the next six years with Bournemouth rates rising at a slower rate of 2.23 per cent annually.

This plan would fit in with the government’s “minded to” approach and Cllr Walton has now responded to Mr Sunak outlining the shadow authority’s support for its position.

The letter says: “As a new unitary council, we have always been keen to strike the balance between ensuring council tax payers do not experience a large increase in bills and not allowing residents in any one part of the area to be concerned that they are effectively contributing more to the cost of services than others in the area.

“This is why we determined early in the process a commitment that no borough’s council tax level will increase at a rate exceeding the government’s referendum limits and in each year the gap between the highest and lowest prevailing rates will reduce.”

At Wednesday’s meeting of the shadow authority’s executive committee, councillors supported Cllr Walton’s support, despite opposition from Christchurch councillors David Flagg and Trish Jamieson.