Second home council tax discount slashed
THOUSANDS of homeowners will have to pay more council tax on their second properties in parts of Suffolk after councillors last night decided to cut their discount – saving taxpayers more than £1million.
By Danielle Nuttall
THOUSANDS of homeowners will have to pay more council tax on their second properties in parts of Suffolk after councillors last night decided to cut their discount - saving taxpayers more than £1million.
People who own two homes have enjoyed a 50% discount on their second property - but last night Suffolk Coastal District Council decided to reduce this to 10%.
This is the minimum allowed under new Government legislation and the extra revenue is expected to top £1million in the next financial year which could lead to lower council tax bills.
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There are around 2,500 homeowners in the likes of Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Aldeburgh who will be affected by the cabinet's decision, which will have to be ratified by the full council.
Councillors last night asked officers to meet with Suffolk County Council to discuss ways of ensuring the revenue raised still benefited residents in the Suffolk Coastal area as opposed to countywide.
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It is hoped the savings, which mean around £115,800 extra for Suffolk Coastal, £901,600 for the county council and £110,700 to Suffolk Police Authority, will help keep increases in the district's council tax this year down.
Last night, council leader Ray Herring said: "The income will be generated by Suffolk Coastal and we feel it should be spent to the benefit of Suffolk Coastal district residents and the council tax payer.
"It will help us keep the council tax increases down. I think it is absolutely right that second home owners should pay the full amount, be it with a 10% discount.
"It's an issue of fairness and also means people are making a proper contribution to local services."
The Local Government Act 2003 changed the legislation governing council tax and gave billing authorities the power to reduce the discount on second homes.
The Government was concerned that it was becoming increasingly difficult for homeowners, particularly first-time buyers, to afford property prices in areas where there were many second homes.
Peter Collicott, the council's finance director, reported to cabinet that it was also difficult for local people to buy property close to their work or family groups, and in areas where there were second homes there was a lower use of essential services such as shops, pubs and post offices.
The discount for long term empty homes is also being reduced. The cabinet recommended that the 50% discount should be removed completely to encourage some owners to bring these properties back into use.
There are more than 800 empty properties in Suffolk Coastal and it is hoped the homelessness problem will be eased because owners will decide it is not worth keeping the houses unoccupied.