NEXT week the budget for the new unitary authority for 2019/20 will be set. The importance of that decision cannot be overstated.

Parliament passed legislation earlier this month to enable the same Band D council tax to be set throughout the new area.

That can be done by using the current average Band D council tax of £1,446 and uprating it by the maximum permissible 2.99%.

This option is not only fair and equitable but will also maximise the income of the new authority which can be spent on public services.

Adam Richens, the finance boss of the new authority, has confirmed to me that if a common rate of council tax is adopted throughout the area, it will generate £1,462,000 more than the proposal being recommended by the Shadow Executive which perpetuates different council taxes for Band D households depending upon where they live.

The Shadow Authority is forecasting the need for further service cuts next year. Why would it not choose to ease that problem by voting to maximise the council tax yield? Such an approach would also be consistent with the efforts of the new authority to make a fresh start unshackled by the past, as illustrated by the selection of an independent new Chief Executive.

The budget decision is also a golden opportunity for the new authority to demonstrate to the people of Christchurch that the fears which they expressed in the overwhelming referendum decision against a “hostile takeover” were misplaced. A common rate of council tax in 2019/20 would save every Christchurch taxpayer £109.47 at Band D and Christchurch residents collectively £2,243,000.

If Christchurch residents are forced to pay so much more than their counterparts in Poole and Bournemouth for a lower level of service, the credibility and coherence of the new authority will be seriously undermined.


House of Commons, London