THE first budget of the new conurbation unitary authority has been approved, despite criticism from Christchurch councillors about the way council tax is to be brought in line.

Members of the shadow authority approved the £735 million account on Thursday – a decision which will see people in Bournemouth and Poole paying less than those in Christchurch for the next six years.

Christchurch councillor said that the agreed approach to council tax ‘harmonisation’ would see their constituents “paying the price for the failings” of the other two councils.

The budget will see people in Christchurch pay more council tax than those in Bournemouth and Poole for the next six years.

The rate charged in the borough will be frozen until 2025 while Bournemouth and Poole’s precepts are gradually increased and brought in line.

Next year, the council’s share of a Christchurch Band D household’s bill will be £1,598.30 compared to £1,473.40 in Bournemouth and £1,441.53 in Poole.

Police and fire precepts will add an extra £305.45 to each Band D home’s charge while an extra parish council charge will be required of most people in Christchurch.

In a bid to have the council changes its approach to council tax harmonisation, Christchurch independent Paul Hilliard proposed an amendment that it level rates from straight away.

He said that a procedure allowing the secretary of state to set an ‘alternative notional amount’ had been used in the formation of all new unitary authorities and would allow rates to be brought in line immediately without the need for a referendum.

Supporting the move, Cllr Lesley Dedman (Christchurch, independent) said: “Christchurch didn’t want to go into this venture, yet we are paying for it.

“Christchurch people are paying the price for the leaders of Bournemouth and Poole councils failing to accept the consequences of not increasing their rates.”

Cllr John Beesley, Bournemouth council leader and chairman of the shadow authority’s budget task and finish group, said that the six-year approach was the fairest on everyone in the conurbation.

“We have continually made a commitment to our residents that council tax will nor increase by more than the government’s 2.99 per cent referendum threshold.

“We have also promised that council tax for the residents of Christchurch will be frozen or even reduced until the harmonised rate has been achieved.”

He added that next year’s bills for people in Christchurch were lower than they would have been had it remained in its existing two-tier arrangement with Dorset County Council.

The amendment was defeated by councillors before the six-year harmonisation was approved as part of the budget.

The budget will see the new council have to make savings of £11.2m over the next 12 months although it is expected that almost half of this will come from the consolidation of staff after the merger.