WE are writing in response to the letter from Sir Christopher Chope (Daily Echo, February 22) in which he again tries to justify the immediate harmonisation of council tax for residents across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole from April 1. This would of course have resulted in an increase in council tax of 6.4% for Poole residents.

As everyone is aware, he has consistently adopted a contrarian approach in objecting to key legislation nationally on the grounds that he often believes that further scrutiny is required However, he appears to be selective in this approach locally and ignores the many reports that have been published regularly and consistently presenting the council tax harmonisation strategy for the new BCP Council.

In these reports we have continually set out our commitment to the principles that have been adopted that nobody’s council tax in Bournemouth, Christchurch or Poole will increase by more than the Government’s referendum limit and that in respect of the charge for Christchurch residents, it will be frozen or reduced until a harmonised rate is applied.

We are fully aware that the Secretary of State gave us the option to harmonise council tax on day one and then apply the government’s cap, provided this did not result in excessive increases for any residents. This option was debated fully by the Shadow Authority and the proposal was defeated in favour of our long-held local preference. This means that rather than imposing inflation busting increases on the residents of Bournemouth and Poole, Christchurch residents will actually see a small reduction of £8.86 in April from £1,607.16 to £1,598.30 for a Band D property.

We would challenge Sir Christopher to tell us the last time council tax in Christchurch was frozen or reduced. This will not be a one-year phenomenon, but will carry on for six years by which time council tax will have become the same amount across all three towns. Of course there will be additional precepts charged of £27.89 and £27.59 for the two new town councils that Christchurch Borough Council have set up in Christchurch. These are for Christchurch Town Council and the Highcliffe & Walkford Neighbourhood Council.

What is clear, and about which Sir Christopher makes no mention, is that because both Bournemouth and Poole councils have kept council tax lower for their residents for many years, we are now in a position to ensure that Christchurch residents will benefit from this approach as part of the new BPC Council and have their council tax reduced or frozen for some years ahead.

Cllr John Beesley

Chair of the BCP Budget Task and Finish Working Group

Cllr Janet Walton

Chair of the BPC Shadow Executive