THE average Band D household in Bridport is set to pay more than £2,000 a year in council tax.

The combined increases for town or parish councils, police, fire and the Dorset Council precepts will result in those properties paying £2,157.74 - more than residents in Weymouth, Dorchester and Portland.

The average payments for residents in west Dorset will rise by a combined sum of just over five per cent with Band F households paying more than £3,000 and those in Band H paying more than £4,000 a year for council services.

Many residents are blaming the new Dorset Council for the bigger charges but the authority says it is only responsible for a 2.99 per cent increase, the maximum allowed by the Government. To have increased beyond that would have meant having to hold a referendum. That increase puts its share of the council tax at £1,629.75 for a Band D property. It says the rise will allow for a modest investment in key services such as children’s and adult social care and limited extra cash for other services.

The biggest percentage rise comes from the police whose share of the council tax is up by 11.6 per cent for some properties.

Another change which has skewed the figures is the Dorset Council decision to harmonise, or average, its share of council tax so that residents in each former borough or district pays the same. 

The Dorset Council method has been to average the 2018/19 tax levels across its area and then to apply a 2.99 per cent increase to the resulting figure.

Said Dorset Council’s finance brief holder Cllr Tony Ferrari: “The underlying principle underpinning the council tax increase is fairness. Under the new Dorset Council all residents will receive the same services and pay a standard council tax rate for those services. To get to this standard council tax rate some areas like East Dorset and Purbeck have very small increases, other areas have larger increases. In the end this is a fair outcome for all.”

A council spokesman says that to focus on the increase in tax rates is only to tell one side of the story: “While many councils across the country are making yet further cuts to their front line services, Dorset Council’s budget ensures that services previously delivered by the borough, district and county councils will continue to be provided to residents unchanged, and there is significant additional funding for social care, waste collection and homelessness. This has been made possible by the reorganisation of councils in Dorset, and the resulting efficiencies and cost reductions which are in train. Money saved through cost reductions is being reinvested to protect front line services for residents."

The authority also says that although ‘average’ council tax bands have always been worked out on a Band D property for illustrative purposes the average, most common, council tax band in Dorset is band C, which, with all elements added, is now likely to average £1,811.18 a year.

Despite the harmonisation of the council tax for Dorset Council the amounts paid across the area will still vary because of other elements of the council tax.
These include the share for police and fire services and town or parish charges.
The average Band D fire service charge for 2019-20 will be £74.87 per household with £230.58 for the Police.
Parish precepts have to be added in to these figures and vary from zero in some Dorset parishes where there is no local council, to upwards of £200 a year.
In Bridport the parish, or town precept, in the coming year for a Band D property will be £227.54; in Dorchester £192.76; Weymouth £185.69 and Portland £99.29. For comparison those who live in the Cerne Valley parish council area will be paying £31.59.

When all the figures are added together many, but not all, residents in Band D homes will now be paying more than £2,000 a year, those in Band F over £3,000.

In Weymouth the total figure for a Band D property works out at £2,120.89; in Dorchester £2,127.96; Bridport £2,157.74 and Portland £2,034.49; In the Cerne Valley £1,966.79. For those areas which do not have a parish precept the annual council tax bill will be £1,935.20 for a Band D property.
One of the main reasons for rises in council tax over recent years is that the Government has gradually reduced the amount of money it pays to councils, known as the Rate Support Grant, so that the entire charge for local services in the coming financial year now falls on local people, rather than being partially shared by taxpayers.