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Calls for government to pick up Dorset residents' council tax bill

DORSET Liberal Democrats are calling on Government to pick up the bill for council tax payments to ease the financial pressure people are facing as a result of the coronavirus.

The rural county has one of the highest council tax bills in the county with many in ‘average’ homes now paying over £2,000 a year when bills for council services, police and fire and rescue are combined.

According to the Liberal Democrats, their proposals would save residents in Dorset an average of £483 over the next three months on the council share of the bill – although those in the most expensive houses would be excluded from the full saving.

The party’s proposals include a complete moratorium on payments for all households in Bands A to E, and a 50% reduction in payments across other bands. The Treasury would make up the shortfall in tax revenue with direct payments to councils.

The Liberal Democrats would like to see these measures implemented for a minimum of three months, with an option to extend the scheme as required.

Said South Dorset Liberal Democrat spokesman and leader of the party group at Dorset Council, Cllr Nick Ireland: “In Dorset people in Bands A-E are being asked to pay an average of £1,931 in council tax this year. As the coronavirus crisis escalates, thousands will be unable to pay, and may fall into arrears if steps are not taken to suspend payments. Rapid action is needed, or many more families will be under unbearable financial pressuring in the coming weeks.

“Councils have been hit hard by government funding cuts over the last five years. Every penny is now vital to ensure Dorset Council can continue to operate. Under these proposals, councils would receive equivalent funding from central government, to make sure they can continue to provide the services that people in South Dorset rely on.”

Liberal Democrat Communities, Housing and Local Government spokesperson Tim Farron said“Millions of people are facing financial hardship as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. More must be done to ease the pressure on families facing financial hardship. Scrapping council tax bills before they kick in again in April is one such step.

“Councils and local authorities provide vital services and, of course, they must be able to continue that work. That’s why Liberal Democrats are calling on Government to foot the bill until the current crisis passes and people can start to rebuild.”

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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