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Council tax changes to bump up the bills in Bridport
CHANGES imposed by the government on the way council tax is calculated have been blamed for bumping up bills in Bridport.
Members of the town council’s finances and general purposes committee backed an 11.93 per cent rise in its part of the charge (precept) although the final decision goes to its full council on January 29.
That means the Band D charge would increase by £15.86 from £132.94 to £148.80 for 2013 to 2014 – working out at 31 pence a week.
Councillors hit out at a Government shake-up in the way council tax is worked out which leaves the authority poorer.
The Localisation of Council Tax Benefit Scheme means the national system of council tax benefit is replaced with a localised council tax support for people on benefits.
It means that the council tax base – the number of people paying council tax in Bridport will drop from 3,351 to 2,877 – a fall of 14 per cent.
West Dorset District Council has awarded the town council a support grant of £58,237 in its place but in the final calculations that still leaves Bridport some £4,700 short of where it would have been.
This has been built into the town council bill and represents the first £1.64 of the £15.86 increase for the coming year.
Finance and general purposes committee councillors heard that other towns, such as Dorchester and Sherborne, had fared better under the new calculations.
Couns Sandra Brown and David Tett said that they and fellow district councillor Ros Kayes had stood up to protest at a recent meeting when the figures were announced.
“We all said it was unfair. We are bottom of the pile while Dorchester and Sherborne have gained.”
Coun Maggie Ray added: “We are between a rock and a hard place. There is no wiggle room.”
Councillors heard that the grant from the district council was voluntary and, in theory, could be removed in future years. They were faced with three options: l to increase council tax by £12.39 leaving a budget deficit of £10,000 l increase it by £15.86 with a balanced budget l increase it by £19.34 to provide a surplus of £10,000.
Councillors selected the middle option of a £15.86 increase to raise a total of £486,461.
Coun Anne-Marie Vincent said: “A few pence makes a big difference to some people.”
Coun Martin Ray added: “The 31p a week increase represents the cost of just half a Mars bar.”
But Coun Julian May suggested the third option.
He said: “If we are going to put it up we might better to go for option three and raise a bit extra now to have a cushion for ourselves.
“We may not have an opportunity to do it again.”
The committee heard that, if approved, the 2013 to 2014 Bridport town council precept would be 9.19 per cent of the total bill including the county and district councils, fire service and police force.
As some of the other precepts are likely to be frozen it would mean that the total council tax bill would increase by less than one per cent.
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