CONCERNS raised by a residents group in Christchurch over the impact of council tax harmonisation have been dismissed by the Government.

Christchurch Residents Association raised concerns about the agreed proposals to level the rates of council tax across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole within seven years.

It would mean Christchurch residents would be paying more while Bournemouth and Poole residents essentially caught up.

Last month, members of the shadow authority established a preferred approach to how this will be done with Christchurch rates frozen for six years until the other two areas reach the same level by 2025/26.

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

But, 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.

The residents association wrote to the secretary of state for communities, James Brokenshire expressing their dismay.

Their letter said: "I and our members have not only been ignored once by this travesty but now we are being asked to pay £200 more per year in a Band D Council Tax than Bournemouth and Poole, and if this wasn't bad enough, we have to wait seven years to become harmonised.

"I don’t know whether you realise but we have some very poor areas in Christchurch and to expect those people to pay more than someone in Sandbanks, one of the richest areas in the world, is beyond our comprehension.

"Christchurch was once a shire and now we are a broken shire."

Responding to the organisation, Antonia Holdgate, policy advisor at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: "I recognise that you do feel strongly about this issue in the context of council tax in Christchurch and the time which might be taken to achieve equalisation.

"In coming to a conclusion, the Secretary of State carefully considered your letter, all other representations he received on the issue, and all other relevant information available to him.

"Having regard to local preferences, the impact of harmonisation on individual council tax bills across the areas concerned, and the financial implications for the authorities, he has concluded that it is appropriate for the approach to council tax harmonisation to be a local decision by those accountable to local residents.

"I am now writing to inform you that the Secretary of State has decided to confirm that it is appropriate for the shadow authorities and the new councils to be able to adopt their local preference, and we have now laid the secondary legislation which makes provisions for this - The Local Government (Structural and Boundary Changes) (Amendment) Regulations 2018."