CRITICISM has been levelled at a planned overhaul of the way council tax is aligned following the merger of three councils earlier this year.

Earlier this week the new coalition running BCP Council outlined a proposal to reduce the original controversial seven-year process to two.

But the deputy leader of the Conservative group said the move would place a financial “burden” people living in Bournemouth and Poole.

Under the plans detailed in a report to the first meeting of the new cabinet on Wednesday, June 12, council tax in Christchurch would be reduced by 4.5 per cent.

At the same time bills in Bournemouth and Poole would rise by 2.99 per cent – one per cent more than had been planned by the shadow authority last year.

Cllr Philip Broadhead, deputy leader of the council’s Conservatives, said: “It is surprising to see that one of the first acts of this new ‘inclusive’ authority is to saddle the council tax-payers of Poole and Bournemouth with a large increase for two years in order to fund a big reduction in Christchurch.

“The Conservatives had committed to manage this process with no additional increases in Bournemouth and Poole.

“The Liberal Democrat-led coalition has instead opted to burden some of our area’s most deprived residents with increased bills.”

But council leader, Liberal Democrat Cllr Vikki Slade, said the new approach would be a more equitable one.

“It isn’t fair that residents of Christchurch pay a significantly higher level of council tax than those with the same band of property in Poole and Bournemouth,” she said.

“We want a new approach that sees everyone in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole paying the same council tax levels as soon as possible.

“But this must be linked to everyone receiving the same standards of service across the board.”

Under the plans, council tax would be levelled in 2021 and cabinet member for finance, Liberal Democrat Cllr David Brown, said this would give more flexibility in future years.

Council tax harmonisation had been particularly contentious in Christchurch where they would have been paying more than people in the two other conurbation towns for six years.

The independent councillors in the town had hoped for bills to be brought in line immediately but said they felt the approach of bringing services up to par at the same time was the right one.

Following the elections at the beginning of May, the Conservative group had also offered to reduce the process to two years but promised not to raise rates in Bournemouth and Poole above 1.99 per cent.