Council chiefs approve empty homes premium in Cheshire

David McCourt

Council Tax will rise to 150% once a property has stood vacant for two years in west Cheshire under new plans by the local authority.

Cheshire West & Chester Council's executive backed the scheme, aimed at bringing long-term empty homes back into use, after members unanimously approved the introduction of an empty homes premium.

Cllr Les Ford, executive member for resources, said: "By setting an extra premium – 50% above the Council Tax payable – we are creating as big a deterrent as possible to people who choose to leave a house empty.

"We take the issue of empty homes very seriously indeed and that is the main thrust of these proposals."

Members also backed changes to Council Tax discounts, which are estimated to bring in a combined additional income of more than £2m a year for the authority.

The affected discounts are:

  • The existing second homes discount of 25% to be removed.
  • Class A, vacant dwellings where major works or structural alterations are required, discount to be set at 25% for 12 months. Properties currently receive a full exemption for up to 12 months.
  • Class C, vacant dwellings up to six months, discount to be set at 100% for one month followed by 25% for five months. Properties currently receive a full exemption for up to six months.
  • Long-term empty property, vacant for more than six months, discount to be retained at 25%.

Opposition Members, who claimed the proposals were almost identical to a scheme they suggested a year ago, described the move as a 'u-turn'.

Cllr Mark Henesy told the meeting: "The Labour Group put forward a motion to Full Council last December to increase Council Tax on empty homes and second homes.

"Because the Administration chose to reject it, this council has forgone potentially £500,000 worth of income that would have been generated from the measures we put forward."

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Ford said: "The situation has moved on in terms of the pressure on this authority to deliver and to get as many people as possible to contribute to Council Tax.

"However, I must point out that the sum potentially foregone by taking the action suggested by the Labour Group a year ago is in fact £197,000."

Subject to endorsement by full council, the changes are expected to take effect from April 2013.

There are approximately 2,000 empty homes in Cheshire West.

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