Essex holiday homes tax bonanza

TAXPAYERS in Essex could reap the benefits of a decision to scrap council tax discounts on second homes in the county.New legislation allowing authorities to reduce the council tax discount on second homes from the current statutory 50% to as little as 10% comes into force in April.

TAXPAYERS in Essex could reap the benefits of a decision to scrap council tax discounts on second homes in the county.

New legislation allowing authorities to reduce the council tax discount on second homes from the current statutory 50% to as little as 10% comes into force in April.

Councils in Essex stand to bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds extra if they were to charge second homeowners as much as they can - but it emerged yesterday many had still not formally considered the issue.

The money, which could be earned by the discounts being scrapped would be shared between parish, district and county councils and the police authority.


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North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin said the legislation was a stealth tax.

"It is a very difficult call for councils to make," he said.

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"Council taxes are much fairer than the old rates and it was never meant to be purely a property tax but on the other hand, teachers, social workers and extra policemen are all desperately needed.

"I am a second home owner - as a member of parliament I have a home in Essex and a home in London and I would say that it is another example of Labour stealth tax after they promised no new taxes.

"Who is happy paying extra tax when public services are getting worse and worse?

"I am very unhappy about it, like most of my constituents."

Harwich MP Ivan Hendersonsaid: "This policy will prevent local authorities from being forced to miss out on much needed revenue simply because people own a second home within their boundaries.

"The Conservative opposition to this measure confirms that they are still appealing to no more than the narrow band of individuals who are fortunate enough to be able to afford more than one home."

The number of second homes also take into account long-term empty properties.

A spokesman for Colchester Borough Council said the abolition of the discount would be considered again as part of its 2004/05 budget.

The council has a total of 1,200 second homes and an extra £250,000 would be bought in by abolishing the discount.

Maldon District Council has 357 second homes in its area and a further 267 long term empty properties.

A report has been sent to councillors recommending the discount is reduced from 50% to 10% but a final decision is yet to be made.

A spokesman for Braintree District Council said it was considering scrapping the discount but no decision would be made for at least two months.

The district has 220 second homes which would bring in £122,000 extra revenue. If the discount was dropped to 10% an extra £96,000 would be bought in.

A spokesman for Tendring District Council said there were between 1,500 and 2,000 second homes in the area but figures were still being finalised.

Scrapping the discount could bring in an extra £500,000 per year.

The council is considering its position relating to council tax on second homes but no recommendation has yet been made.

Chelmsford Borough Council is reviewing its policy on council tax discounts for second homes but will not make a final decision until December.

A council spokesman said it was thought there were not many more second homes in the borough since figures were added up last year, when there were 252.

A spokesman for Uttlesford District Council said a report had gone to its resources committee to discuss on November 20.

However no recommendation has been made and the decision will be left to councillors.

Pensioner Tony Constable, who is campaigning for council tax charges to be related to income, said he did not believe Colchester Borough Council would benefit pensioners even if it did scrap the discounts.

Mr Constable has presented a 5,400 petition to the Local Government Ombudsman asking for an investigation into the "excessive" increase in council tax in Colchester.

"I don't think there will be anything in this for pensioners," he said.

"The (the council) will just give themselves a nice big rise."

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