Posted: Thu 22nd Feb 2024

Calls to increase Council Tax premium on long-term empty properties in Flintshire

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Calls have been made to increase the council tax premium on long-term empty properties in Flintshire.

Members of Flintshire Council agreed on an additional charge of 75 per cent for properties which are unoccupied and “substantially unfurnished” for 12 months or more when they met this week.

The aim of the premium is to help the local authority to bring more empty homes back into use and increase the supply of affordable housing in the county.

However, Liberal Democrat councillor David Coggins Cogan argued that it should be lifted to 100 per cent, in line with the charge which applies to second homes.

Speaking at Tuesday’s (February 20, 2024) full council meeting, he said: “I wish to move an amendment which would be to increase the council tax premium on long term empty properties to 100 per cent which would equalise with second homes.

“It will increase the amount that we’re bringing in council tax, and it has the added advantage that if people don’t pay it, they will sell their homes and return them to the local housing stock.

“It will mean we’ll have more people in homes in Flintshire.”

His suggestion was backed by independent councillor Helen Brown, who said it would help to address financial pressures facing the council as a result of homelessness.

Officials earlier told the meeting how the authority was experiencing a “high and increasing demand” for temporary accommodation for homeless people.

Cllr Brown said: “We’ve just heard in the previous report that we’ve got over £2m of pressure on homelessness services.

“Why would we not do something that would encourage those empty properties to be brought back in?”

However, the council’s monitoring officer Gareth Owens said the amendment had been put forward too late to be applicable for the 2024/25 financial year.

The authority’s corporate finance manager Gary Ferguson said introducing such a change without consulting members of the public could lead to it facing a judicial review.

Cllr Coggins Cogan challenged the accuracy of the officers’ advice, but later apologised and withdrew his amendment after being criticised for his comments by the council’s chief executive.

Cllr Paul Johnson (Lab), Flintshire cabinet member for finance, made a commitment that the council tax premium would be reviewed ahead of the following financial year instead.

He said: “Given the mood in the chamber, I will be presenting a resolution to cabinet at the earliest opportunity with the intention of starting a consultation to equalise the council tax premium for long-term empty properties.

“Unfortunately, it will take until next year but given the advice I’ve been given it will give all members and residents the chance to contribute to that debate.”

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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