Westcountry holiday home owners are facing tax rise
OWNERS of holiday homes in popular parts of the Westcountry face higher council tax bills as part of a Government shake-up which also brings cuts of up to one fifth in benefits paid to working age families.
Second home owners in East Devon, as well as South Hams, are to lose the 10 per cent discount they currently enjoy, a move which follows similar plans revealed by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall Council last month.
The latest proposals will affect about 7,000 homes in the two districts, where properties that remain empty for more than two years will pay 150 per cent council tax to encourage houses to be brought back into use.
East Devon's cabinet has warned that although pensioners' rebates will not be affected, those claimants under retirement age in its area are set to pay an extra £266 towards their annual council tax bill.
The ruling Conservative group will debate the plans next week.
Independent councillor for Ottery Rural Claire Wright initially proposed the hike a year ago and said the move was "long overdue".
She called for an increase above 100 per cent for second home owners to help prevent any further "withering" of communities.
"The problem of second home ownership is a huge one and it is increasing at a frightening rate," she added.
"We must do all we can to put the brakes on and protect our communities from dying on their feet.
"Homes that are empty for much of the year can have a negative impact on the economies of towns, as local shops and pubs do not get the custom they need to survive."
The Government is to hand responsibility for setting council tax discounts and paying benefits to councils from April. All local authorities have been told to draw up their own localised council tax support schemes.
However, the new power comes with a 10 per cent budget cut and an order that pensioners are not left worse off.
East Devon District Council has around 3,000 homes empty for up to six months a year, 2,500 of those holiday homes.
It said the additional income generated by the changes, which also halve the six month exemption for empty and unoccupied properties to three, will be around £48,000.
South Hams has announced that it will apply for extra funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government to help with the transition to a localised council tax support scheme.