Jan 25 2013

Changes to Council Tax discounts – Second Homes

harrow_council_logoHomeowners with empty properties and second homes have lost their council tax discounts and exemptions after Harrow Council agreed a new scheme at a meeting on Monday (January 21, 2013).

The technical reforms of council tax discounts and exemptions will deliver savings of approximately £620,000 each year. The changes will affect residents with second homes, properties that have been empty for more than two years and unoccupied properties undergoing repair or major structural alteration.

The additional Council Tax revenue will pay for services that support local priorities such as meals on wheels and services for the vulnerable and elderly. Owners of properties that have been empty for more than two years will be charged an additional levy of 50% leading to a council tax bill of 150%. The changes will be introduced from April 1.

Harrow Council’s Portfolio for Finance, Cllr Sachin Shah, said: “In tough times it is only right that those with the broadest shoulders pay the biggest burden. This Council protects and supports the borough’s most financially vulnerable residents and we are doing everything in our power to shield them from Government cuts. That’s why it’s right that we no longer give people a subsidy, paid for by other taxpayers, to have a second home. We will use the extra money raised to continue to support those who are most in need and close the gap left by the Government’s cuts to council tax benefits.”

He continued, “By charging 150% council tax on long-term empty homes, it will encourage landlords to bring their property back in to use. Long term empty properties often bring with them crime with boarded up windows and over grown gardens. Its about time we acted to stop this.”

For the Conservative Group, shadow portfolio holder for Finance, Cllr. Tony Ferrari said: “These welcome changes have come about thanks to the Conservative-led coalition, and we were happy to support them at the last Council meeting. They are a sensible way for the Council to increase income, and will also keep the property market moving – which is particularly important during challenging financial times.

However Cllr. Shah’s assertion that Labour are using this extra income to ‘close the gap left by the Government’s cuts to council tax benefits’ is entirely wrong, and the pledge he made in November that it would be spent on social service provision has disappeared. Labour are actually passing the whole cost of the council tax benefit reduction on to some of Harrow’s most vulnerable residents, and what they plan to do with the money raised through these changes remains unclear.”

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