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Thursday, 18 September 2014

South Lakes second home tax cuts face the axe

COUNCIL tax discounts for second homes are to be axed across South Lakeland.

The radical move will see the extra money generated being used to replace council tax benefit – a nationwide scheme which is being scrapped by the government.

Owners of second homes currently pay 90 per cent of council tax.

But they are likely to face the same council tax bill as full-time residents from April 2013 after the move was sanctioned in principle by members of South Lakeland District Council’s cabinet committee yesterday.

Councillor David Evans, the authority’s finance chief, said: “This is a very important report. The government has recently changed the rules on the discounts to be given to second homes and empty properties. This means we have the option of increasing the council tax payable on these properties so the money raised can be used to put together a local replacement for council tax benefit which is being discontinued by central government.”

The change is part of a nationwide shake up of the council tax system.

The changes are designed to give local authorities the right to alter council tax discounts as they see fit.

The overhaul will also see owners of properties that have sat empty for two years or more lumbered with a bill for 150 per cent of council tax due.

It is hoped this move will bring more of the estimated 1,000 empty homes in South Lakeland back into use.

Cllr Evans added: “I think two years is long enough for something to happen with these properties and it’s reasonable to say beyond that we should do something to help speed the process up.”

SLDC leader Councillor Peter Thornton welcomed the changes, adding every district authority in Cumbria was considering a similar scheme.

He told the meeting: “We have a lot of concerns from the public about the problems caused by second homes. We will be using this extra money to relieve the burden on the poorest within our communities.

“The government isn’t going to give us any money to help these people once council tax benefit is stopped.

“But this move means that we can do it ourselves.”

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