UNDER fire Portland councillors are due to start setting the island’s council tax precept again after a community backlash.
All Saints Church at Easton, which was the venue for a fiery public meeting attended by more than 600 people earlier this week, has been chosen again to host a meeting next Wednesday.
This time it is for a town council budget setting meeting as members come together amid growing anger over an earlier decision to hike up the island precept by 1,000 per cent for a Band D property.
The town council has been under immense pressure to rethink the decision as residents revolt against the small authority.
There were angry scenes at the public meeting as councillors were heckled and calls were made for them to resign.
Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis waded into the debate, describing the increase as ‘utterly unreasonable.’ A petition containing more than 3,000 signatures urging councillors to reconsider and set a ‘fair’ precept will be officially presented to the meeting.
In a bid to appease residents, it has been proposed the council scrap decisions made about the budget and precept in the last couple of months and start again with a clean sheet.
Councillor Tim Munro, who led the original proposal to hike up the precept to get more money for the island in the wake of local authority cuts, will put forward the special resolution to rescind earlier decisions.
He admitted this week the council had not engaged with the community or communicated its message effectively and this was a way of correcting things.
Councillors will then decide the new precept. Coun Ray Nowak will suggest it is set at 2 per cent which would take a Band D from £14.73 to £15.02.
Coun Nowak said he had proposed a two per cent increase on the basis that this is the inflation figure that borough and county councils have to limit their increase in council tax.
He said a low increase would demonstrate that the town council has listened to the community.
Councillors Les Ames, Andy Matthews and Rachel Barton will also urge councillors to consider their proposal to increase the bill for a Band D to £21 a year, an increase of 42.6 per cent. This would give a precept of £72,305.
The three councillors said limiting the rise to a two per cent rise wouldn’t be enough to move the council forward to prepare for changes in the public sector.
The trio said increasing it to the amount they have suggested would ensure the council maintains its present progress including carrying on with the island caretaker and the Neighbourhood Plan, as well as delivering a ‘competent, accountable council.’ The meeting is at All Saints Church, Easton at 7pm on Wednesday, February 5.