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Update: Portlanders facing almost 1,000 per cent increase in council tax precept
12:38pm Thursday 16th January 2014 in News
PORTLANDERS are facing a massive increase in their council tax.
Councillors have voted to hike up the town council precept by almost 1,000 per cent in a move to generate extra money for the island.
It will mean the precept bill for a Band D property will rise from around £14 to £150 a year.
That is the town council’s portion of the council tax – other authorities are still to decide their share of the bill.
The amount raised from the Portland precept will be more than £500,000.
A public meeting is being held in the next fortnight where councillors will explain the thinking behind the decision.
Feelings ran high at a meeting on Wednesday night as councillors argued the case for raising more money locally to fund services and community projects in the wake of borough and county council cuts.
It was also explained the government may ‘cap’ council tax next year so a big rise now was justified to avoid missing the chance of improving services.
But several members of the public who attended the meeting vented their anger.
Afterwards one resident, who wouldn’t give his name, said: “It’s outrageous. Decisions are being pushed through without residents being involved. There’s no democracy.
“Some people will struggle to pay this.”
Councillor Tim Munro argued the move would go a long way to helping Portland gain ‘financial independence’.
He said a sum could be set aside for strategic spending on the island while other money could support projects in each ward.
While the majority of councillors agree in principle there should be a rise in the council tax, not all believe there should be such a massive hike.
Mayor Les Ames, who chaired the meeting, said ‘feelings ran high’ and it was sometimes hard to maintain order. He described it as a ‘difficult’ evening.
Sensing members of the public wanted to speak on the item, Coun Ames invited them to have their say even though the opportunity had passed earlier in the meeting.
He said the decision to increase the council tax by so much ‘did not go down well’ with the public.
“A lot of people didn’t like it and I can understand why. I didn’t agree with it myself although I do think there should be an increase.
“My proposal was for a £50 increase but I was outvoted.”
Town clerk Ian Looker said: “I have been informed to instruct the borough the precept has been set.
“We are organising a public meeting in the next 14 days for members to explain to the public why they have agreed that increase on the precept which has gone up to £150 for a Band D property.”
Mr Looker said the precept would generate more than £500,000.
He said a plan had been sketched out into how that money could be spent and that the community would be involved in those decisions.
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