RESIDENTS of Weymouth and Portland are paying the highest rate of council tax in the country, according to government figures.
Information from the Department for Communities and Local Government shows that Weymouth and Portland is the most expensive location for council tax in 2014/15, with the average for a Band D mid range property of £1,726.04 - more than £1,000 higher than the lowest in the country in Westminster in London.
Weymouth and finance spokesman has challenged the figures, claiming Weymouth and Portland’s council tax was not even the highest in Dorset.
Briefholder for finance and assets Colin Huckle was also keen to point out that the borough council’s portion of the council tax was only a small part of the total bill, with the county council accounting for the majority of the bill and precepts from the police and fire services also included.
The figures show two other areas of Dorset in the top ten most expensive locations, with East Dorset coming in fifth place and Purbeck in sixth.
Weymouth resident Michael McManus accused the borough council of being ‘greedy’ and said they did not appreciate the struggles many people faced to make ends meet.
He said: “I have always stated that I think Weymouth and Portland Council is greedy, that’s my opinion.
“If they actually took time out to ask people how they manage and if they are struggling they would find 98 or 99 per cent of them would say they are struggling.”
Weymouth and Portland outreach worker Angie Barnes says there is 'no justification' for the extortionate council tax rates.
She said: “I know the costs of services have to be covered but there is no justification for the extortionate rates.
“The town is slowly dying economically, corporate wages are far too high.
“Available Jobs are far too scarce for available workforce.
“We risk exceptionally high homelessness due to high taxes.”
County councillor Daniel Brember, who represents Rodwell, blamed the national government for the high level of council tax.
He said: “If Dorset received a fairer share from central government, it would be better able to meet the service level needs of the local population.
“Dorset has been one of the poorest funded counties in the country, in terms of the settlement grants issued by central government.
“Under Eric Pickles, local government and community services are on a knife edge.
“Though it may seem high at the moment, local government cannot sustain the current level of cuts and maintain current service level provisions.”
Cllr Brember added that the demographic in Weymouth meant service level needs were greater and ‘more complex’.
He said: “Weymouth has acute needs and therefore needs to raise a considerable amount more via council tax.”
Cllr Huckle said he had seen other figures for ten towns across the county that showed Weymouth was actually the eight highest in terms of council tax, meaning it was actually the third lowest in Dorset.
He added that, while Weymouth and Portland Council was the billing authority, Dorset County Council accounted for 70 per cent of the council tax bill, Dorset Police 11 per cent, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service four per cent with the borough council accounting for the rest.
Cllr Huckle also pointed out that many properties in Weymouth and Portland were in the A or B council tax bands so they paid less.