Poll: Should councils be given the power to buy underused second homes?

A RADICAL suggestion to give councils the power to buy under-used second homes was last night dubbed “draconian”.

The GMB union said councils with severe housing needs should consider compulsory purchase orders on the most under-utilised holiday properties.

Michael Ladd, mayor of Southwold, where second homes make up around half the housing stock, said the union’s suggestion was unworkable.

“It seems quite a draconian way of operating,” he added. “I think it’s too radical and there are other measures.”

It was a view echoed by Peter Halliday, deputy leader of Tendring District Council (TDC), which has around 1,400 second homes on its patch.

“It’s not something we would do, people with second homes are a source of income for the district,” he said. “This is a democracy - if people can afford a second home then fine.”

Paul Hayes, GMB regional secretary said: “A holiday home that is used only a few weeks a year at a time when there are families in bed and breakfast accommodation gives rise to fundamental questions on the role and power of the local authority on the use of residential property in its area.

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“We consider that, under the Localism Act, local councils should have the power to levy taxation on underused holiday homes and other empty properties.

“In areas with acute housing need the question should be able to the raised in the council chamber as to whether underused houses should be subject to compulsory purchase.”

His comments came as Tendring proposed to join Suffolk Coastal and Waveney in ending a 10% council tax discount for second home owners.

Mr Ladd added: “At best they should pay 100% - it would help the local economy if they were taxed more than that.

“If you’re spending half-a-million on a home you’re only using on the odd occasion you wouldn’t be concerned about paying more council tax.

“They do bring in economic benefits when they are here but it’s more about the community cohesion which is lost because they are not here all of the time.”

A spokesman for TDC said removing a 10% discount - which had been in place since 2005 - would bring in an additional �93,515. The council’s cabinet approved the measure this week and it will now go before full council for a final decision.