THE government should step in to ensure Christchurch residents pay the same council tax as everyone else in the new authority, a group of independents has said.

The Christchurch Independents group, mostly current Conservative councillors who intend to contest May's super council election in opposition to their old party, have written to Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire.

Under current plans to harmonise council tax levels across the conurbation Christchurch residents, who pay more council tax than neighbouring Bournemouth and Poole at present, will continue to do so for up to seven years.

The group said: "Together we represent many thousands of residents in Christchurch and although seven of us currently sit as Conservative councillors in the Borough, we intend to stand for election as Independents on May 2.

"This is in part because of the way council tax harmonisation has been handled, both by your department and by the Conservative leaderships of Bournemouth and Poole councils.

"As you will be very aware, under the arrangements that have been agreed, the residents of Christchurch will be paying more than those in Bournemouth and Poole for exactly the same services, for up to seven years.

"It is abundantly clear that our residents will be subsiding those of the neighbouring boroughs. You will not be surprised to learn that many electors in Christchurch are very unhappy about this."

The group says the Government's present position is "totally at odds" with comments made by minister Rishi Sunak to the effect that "local preference" would be taken into account in each borough.

"To our dismay, however, and that of our residents, the members of the shadow authority from Bournemouth and Poole, decided they did not want to adopt such a fair and just policy," the letter said.

"The situation is intolerable and does nothing but add insult to injury to the people of Christchurch who voted by 84 per cent to 16 per cent against the merger.

"On behalf of the residents of Christchurch we ask you to reconsider your approach to this as a matter of urgency and put this injustice right.

"We would appreciate a response setting out your views on this serious matter."

The group comprises currently serving councillors Colin Bungey, Lesley Dedman, David Flagg, Nick Geary, Paul Hilliard, Fred Neale and Margaret Phipps, and candidates Nigel Brooks, Simon McCormack and Lindy Stuart-Clark.