BATTLE lines are being drawn up on Portland as islanders rally against a decision to hike up the council tax precept by almost 1,000 per cent.
One man says he is prepared to go to prison rather than pay the increase.
Residents are angered by the lack of consultation over the move, which town councillors say will generate £500,000 for the island and help it gain ‘financial independence’ by providing more services and funding for communities.
The rise will mean the bill for a Band D property will go up from about £14 a year to £150.
While many support an increase in the council’s share of the bill, such a huge rise which was voted through by councillors last week has been described as ‘ludicrous’ which will hit struggling families.
Councillors will explain the thinking behind the decision at a public meeting next week.
But some residents hope the decision can be overturned.
Petitions are being prepared and a Facebook group, ‘The People of Portland Against the Precept’, has been set up with 300 supporters.
‘Fifth generation’ Portlander and former town councillor John Thorner started the Facebook group and has declared he would go to prison in protest.
The 56-year-old disabled resident said the ‘spirit of Portland’ was alive and well as people join together to fight the decision.
Mr Thorner is prepared to pay a small amount extra but suggested there were grants available to fund the things the town council wants to do with the money from raising the precept.
“I would rather go to prison than pay this precept to a council which to me is a toothless tiger,” Mr Thorner said.
Resident Penny McCartney said councillors were not representing the best interests of local people.
Town councillor Sylvia Bradley, who voted against the increase at a meeting in December, said she was ‘disgusted’, as people |were struggling to pay household bills.
She added: “The rise is ludicrous. We want to take back services on Portland which were taken from us in 1974 but not like this.”
Another councillor, Ray Nowak, said he voted for the proposal in December but on the basis that there was going to be further discussion up until budget setting next month.
He said residents weren’t made aware of the proposal because it wasn’t available to view anywhere.
Coun Nowak said: “The proposal has some merit but there’s a lot of work to do into how it would become reality.
“But residents think this has been done behind their backs.”
Coun Tim Munro put forward the proposal, saying it had to be done now to raise money to avoid the council being ‘capped’ by government next year.
He said there were elections next year where residents could vote off councillors if they didn’t agree with them.
Coun Munro said there was no consultation as the process to set the precept is done in the same way each year, with elected councillors making decisions at advertised meetings.
He admitted the town council suffered ‘communication’ problems as the website has not been updated since last year.