PLANNED increases to council tax in Bournemouth and Poole have been described as “morally indefensible”.

Cllr Bob Lawton, the leader of the BCP Council Conservative group, said the approach to bringing levels across the three towns in line would hit the poorest residents.

But cabinet member for finance Cllr David Brown (Lib Dem, Bearwood and Merley) said the two-year process they were planning was the fairest one.

Last week the new coalition administration unveiled plans to overhaul the seven-year council tax harmonisation process approved by the shadow authority last year.

The change would see bills in Christchurch reduced by 4.47 per cent next year with a 2.85 per cent and 2.84 per cent rise in Bournemouth and Poole respectively.

In 2021 rates in Christchurch would be frozen with a smaller 0.76 per cent rise in Bournemouth while bills in Poole would increase by 2.99 per cent – the maximum allowed without requiring a referendum.

Discussing the plan at the meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, Cllr Lawton said it would be hitting some of the poorest people in the conurbation.

“I find it morally indefensible that we are penalising the residents of Bournemouth and Poole,” he said.

Fellow Conservative councillor Bobbie Dove said that is was “dangerous” to assume the council would be allowed to implement the maximum 2.99 per cent rise.

The group had also proposed a two-year council tax harmonisation period but with smaller rate increases in Bournemouth and Poole.

Adam Richens, chief finance officer for the council, said there was “huge uncertainty” over what government funding might be provided to local authorities next year and that the difference equated to about £2.5 million.

Cllr Brown said several approaches to bringing council tax in line were considered.

“We felt that this was better than being stuck on a seven-year conveyor belt,” he said.

“It also resolves the moral quandary over why Christchurch residents could have a different level of council tax.

“With our plan we would bring council tax in line at the same time services are as well.”

Council tax bills will not be set until the budget for next year is approved at the beginning of next year.