Each landowner in the county must pay this local tax to Dorset Council.
They decide the rate within the limits prescribed by the government and usually charge the maximum possible, as well as the precept of social care for adults.
It is now collected at the highest rate, or one of the highest, in the country.
I wanted to know what the Dickens were spending all our money on. So I took a look under the hood and read their latest audited accounts (2019-20). What I found was astonishing.
It turns out that our full council tax doesn’t even cover their staff costs. Their tax revenue was Â£ 240million, but total staff costs were Â£ 243million.
They told me not to worry because they have other sources of income like commercial tariffs to fill the shortfall. The board currently has 6,500 employees and 9,500 others receive retirement benefits.
This is their first set of accounts following the amalgamation of the old district councils. This saved Â£ 12.5million in staff costs. As a result, they spent Â£ 13.3million on release packages with one staff member receiving just under Â£ 1million. An additional Â£ 300,000 is foreseen for six employees.
All Council employees can join the Local Government Pension Fund and operate four pension plans, three of which are defined benefit. The Dorset Council element estimated assets at just over Â£ 1bn, but liabilities of Â£ 1.77bn, net pension liability of Â£ 762m. Their actuaries estimate a deficit of Â£ 115million in their pension scheme and they intend to fund it with an additional annual charge of Â£ 6.05million for the next 19 years.
We paid Â£ 36million to the pension fund as employer contributions, the staff paid Â£ 10million. Although salaries have been frozen for one year, the 1.25% increase in NICs next April will increase total staff costs, but since they do not split the total staff costs between salary, employer NICs, allowances and expenses, it is difficult to determine how much this will add to the personnel bill.
So when we get our housing tax claims next March, it won’t even cover staff costs. I urge all council taxpayers to look at their accounts and hold them accountable and justify what they are spending our money on. The next set of accounts (20-21) are being audited and will likely appear on their website next year.
For those who do not have broadband access, write to the CEO and ask them to send you a hard copy by mail.