COUNCILLORS have bowed to intense public pressure and scrapped a controversial decision to put up the Portland council tax precept by 1,000 per cent.
They agreed to rescind all decisions and instead supported a modest rise of 1.99 per cent on a Band D property – a decision later described by a campaigner as a ‘victory for the people.’ The increase is in line with what has been agreed by the borough and county councils.
The decision came at a council meeting attended by about 300 people held at All Saints Church in Easton this evening. The meeting was frequently punctuated by heckling, cheering and applause from the audience as people made their feelings known.
Feelings ran so high that a show of hands on ‘no confidence’ in the council was put forward and supported by many in the crowd.
Resident Tony Weldon addressed Councillor Richard Denton-White’s behaviour and language at a previous meeting and Mayor Les Ames apologised on behalf of the council.
Some councillors could not attend, including Tim Munro, who originally proposed the 1,000 per cent increase.
A move to hike up the island charge by such a huge amount to generate £500,000 for the town council started a revolt on Portland and councillors found themselves under great pressure to think again.
There were angry scenes at a meeting last month as calls were made for councillors to resign. Local Government minister Brandon Lewis even got involved, calling the increase ‘utterly unreasonable.’ Responding to the community backlash, councillors decided to start again, and a proposal this evening to rescind all decisions was unanimously agreed.
Cllr Ray Nowak then proposed a 2 per cent increase which would put an extra 29p on a Band D bill. However, amid angry scenes, it was turned down with five votes for and six against.
A motion brought by Cllrs Les Ames, Andy Matthews and Rachel Barton proposed a 42.6 per cent increase. But this was voted against with three votes for and eight against.
Cllr Nowak then proposed an increase of 1.99 per cent, which was passed with eight votes for, two against and one abstention.
This was greeted with loud cheers from the audience. All other business on the agenda was deferred to a meeting next Tuesday at the council offices.
Speaking afterwards, resident John Thorner, who earlier had handed in a protest petition containing 3,042 signatures, said the new precept was a ‘victory for the people of Portland.’ He added: “It’s fantastic.”
Resident Lorraine McKendry said: “It’s what we wanted totally, but it took a long time to get there.”
Cllr Nowak said the council needed to work on its rapport with the community as at the moment it was at ‘rock bottom.’