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Second and empty homes set for council tax increases

Lewes District Council prioritises council tax help for most vulnerable

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Cabinet councillors have today (December 7) recommended that owners of long-term empty properties in Lewes district will have to pay council tax premiums of up to 300 per cent from April 2024.

Premiums would begin at 100 per cent for homes that are unoccupied and substantially unfurnished between 1 and 5 years of becoming empty, 200 per cent for between 5 and 10 years, and 300 per cent for more than 10 years of becoming empty.

Currently, these empty homes are all subject to a 50 per cent premium.

At today's Cabinet meeting, councillors also agreed - subject to Full Council - that second home owners will have to pay twice as much council tax from April 2025, when a 100 per cent premium will come into force on properties that are nobody's main residence and are substantially furnished.

These proposed changes follow the introduction of new rules by government that allow local authorities to set higher council tax premiums on empty and second homes.

Councillor Christine Robinson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, said: "It is not right that at a time when we have an acute shortage of homes for local people in Lewes district, so many properties are standing long-term empty or being used as a second home.

"I am very pleased we are able to increase these levies and that as a result, more properties may come back on to the market from owners of second and empty homes who are discouraged by the extra fees. Alternatively, if they retain the properties, they will be making much greater contributions to local services which are currently under great pressure."

Under the changes, the existing 50 per cent discount on council tax for up to a year on empty homes that are undergoing structural repairs would be abolished from April 2024.

Meanwhile, Cabinet councillors also recommended that council tax support for the worst-off people in the district continues for the next financial year. 

The Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS) provides financial support to around 3,500 of the most disadvantaged working-age residents, helping to meet their council tax liabilities and allows about 2,000 of those experiencing the greatest hardship to not pay any council tax at all.

Councillor Robinson added: "The cost of living crisis is hitting vulnerable people the hardest, which is why we launched this scheme last year among an array of initiatives to help local people through these very difficult times, and I am delighted it is set to support more residents in need throughout 2024/25."

Cabinet's recommendations will be subject to adoption at the next Full Council meeting.

Published on December 7, 2023.

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