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Council tax precept fury- councillor storms out of meeting
A CONTROVERSIAL councillor stormed out of a meeting as tempers flared once again over the attempt to hike up Portland's council tax precept by 1,000 per cent.
Calls were made by the scores of angry residents, who packed into The Methodist Church Hall on Tuesday, for Portland Town Council to dissolve itself and stand for re-election in May.
At a meeting last Tuesday, councillors scrapped a controversial decision to increase the precept by 1,000 per cent amid an island revolt and voted on a new figure of 1.99 per cent.
The town council has to officially inform Weymouth and Portland Borough Council of decisions made about the precept and there was surprise that this was not done immediately.
Angry voices were heard calling for councillor Richard Denton-White to leave as another row broke out following a previous meeting where he swore at an island resident.
The open forum, where members of the public were invited to speak, continued for over an hour with councillors asked why they had even considered the huge tax hike.
Scores of residents were heard calling for councillors to stand down with many speaking of their lack of trust in the elected members.
Mayor Les Ames told residents that members 'made a mistake' voting for the huge increase.
He added: "I have put 40 years of my life into this island. I do not appreciate being shouted at." He told residents and councillors that he would finish his term as mayor by May.
Questions were asked by residents who queried whether councillors had considered the high numbers of low earners on Portland.
Resident Paul Snow reminded councillors that Underhill was one of the most underprivileged in Dorset.
Further questions asked what the extra money would have been used for.
Borough councillor Margaret Leicester said no services have been allocated to Portland Town Council since 1974 and added: "What you're paying for is a talking shop."
Town clerk Ian Looker said it had taken time to inform the borough council due to working out what the precept was.
Before he left, cllr Denton-White said he should not have previously used bad language.
Resident Margaret Stone said: “It's hurt everybody, we feel bitter. Please get your act together."
Borough councillor David Hawkins said: "We need to restore the faith in this lowest form of democracy."
THE People of Portland Against the Precept group urged Portland Town Council to resign.
Former town councillor John Thorner said: “We wish to call your attention that at the meeting of Wednesday, February 12 a vote of no confidence in the current town council was proposed and seconded.
“It was voted on by the people present by a unanimous decision that there is no confidence in the current regime.”
He added: “Resign now you are not wanted.”
Attendees heard that cllr Rachel Barton had already resigned prior to the meeting while cllrs Reynolds and Dutheridge offered to resign during it.
SOUTH Dorset MP Richard Drax responded to pleas by many constituents to intervene after attempts to raise the precept by 1,000 per cent.
Mr Drax was unable to attend the public meeting held on Tuesday but was represented by his constituency caseworker.
He said: “To be absolutely clear, as soon as I was made aware of my constituents' concerns, I contacted the department for local government, and received the following response from the minister Brandon Lewis, which I forwarded to the councillors involved before the meeting.
“On that email, I supported the minister's view that the rise was 'utterly unreasonable'.”
In the email sent to Mr Drax, Mr Lewis wrote: “Parish councils have never received central government funding and are self-financing, but such a large increase seems to me to be utterly unreasonable.
“Incidents like these make the case for council tax referendum protections to be extended to parish councils, and such an extension of direct democracy is something we are considering."
Mr Drax added: “Reading the Minister's response, I would consider that there is an implicit warning for irresponsible town and parish councils in future.”
He said that some Portland town councillors reportedly defended the decision, saying that they were forced to raise the precept drastically because the government intended to cap town council taxes.
Mr Drax added the communities secretary Eric Pickles had not suggested that town and parish precepts will be capped.
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