DORSET Council is doing nobody any favours with its proposed three per cent council tax increase this year – according to opposition leader Cllr Nick Ireland.

He says the Conservative controlled authority will mean Dorset remains one of the most expensive for council tax in the country and to suggest that the council is keeping the tax-rate down is ‘disingenuous.’

Cllr Ireland, the Lib Dem group leader, said the public should be under no illusion that if the council could have achieved a higher increase, without going to a public referendum, it would have done so.

Finance portfolio holder Cllr Gary Suttle says the proposed rise should maintain services and produce a balance budget while still allowing some room for a limited amount of growth and investment.

He told Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that the three per cent rise would mean the council operating in the year ahead with an increase which was below inflation, which he said was currently at 4.1 per cent.

Cllr Suttle said the rise in council tax would also allow the authority to put £4.4million into unallocated reserves to deal with any unforeseen needs in the year ahead.

If approved at a council meeting in February, which is expected, the new payment rates will increase the Dorset Council share of council tax to £1,832.67 for the ‘average’ Band D home – a rise of £1.02p per week. For the next band, F, the rate will be £2,240 and the highest band, H, £3,685.

Once other precept amounts, for police; fire and rescue and parish or town councils are added in, the majority of Band D homes will once again be paying more than £2,000 a year in council tax.

Cllr Ireland told the Cabinet meeting that with the increase, coupled with expected fuel rises in the months ahead, many local people would be struggling to meet their bills in the year ahead.

Other increases are also anticipated in council fees and charges, of around 2.5 per cent, although some, including car parking, will be higher.

Council leader Spencer Flower said the proposed budget and the council’s medium term financial plan was good news and a cause for optimism.