Posted: Tue 12th Sep 2023

Second home and empty home council-tax hike backed in Denbighshire

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Sep 12th, 2023

Holiday and second home owners and people with will be paying a 100% premium on their council tax next year and 150% in April 2025..

And the money raised from the tax hike will be pumped back into dealing with homelessness in Denbighshire.

Denbighshire’s full council backed the increase, proposed by the council’s cabinet in July. Owners of long-term empty properties will face paying even more – 150% above the standard charge from 1 April 2024, and 200% above the standard charge from 2025.

Currently owners of second homes and long-term empty properties pay a 50% premium. The Welsh Government allows councils to charge up to 300% extra.

There was opposition to the hikes, with Cllr Bobby Feeley questioning the validity of a consultation: “The council page (website) was viewed 2,132 times with 898 visits to the actual consultation survey, and out of those, 175 completed the survey,” she said.

“Seventy-one of those responses were from long-term or empty homes or holiday home owners, and 17 live or work in Denbighshire. Eighty-eight were against the proposed new tax, leaving 87 in favour.

“What I’m calling into question is how few people this is out of the 96,000 residents that we have in Denbighshire, so it is difficult to accept the conclusion of your report that Denbighshire residents think there is a need to increase the council tax by 150%. By far the majority, I would say, are not particularly interested.”

Lead member for finance Cllr Gwyneth Ellis insisting the consultation was valid within the context of council surveys: “It would be absolutely fantastic if everybody in the county responded to all the surveys and questionnaires and consultations.

“Unfortunately that doesn’t happen. I’m satisfied there are methodologies behind the number of responses and so on. It is something that is really, really common and happens with almost every consultation that we do.”

Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts wanted money raised from the council-tax hike to be ring-fenced. “What I’m struggling with is if we are going to charge this money, where does it get spent?

“And that is the major issue for me. If we are serious about getting people into affordable homes and getting them into housing, it should be ring-fenced for that purpose fully.”

But officer Steve Gadd said the council could not dictate what future councils decide to do with the funds.

Regionally Denbighshire has relatively low numbers of second homes compared to other areas, such as Gwynedd and Ynys Mon.

But according to the report, there are currently 493 long-term empty properties unoccupied for over five years or longer.

Cllr Mark Young said the number of empty homes in the county was not good enough.

“We shouldn’t have those figures when we know families are living together,” he said.

“Every week I have families who are on the (housing) list, and they understand there is a waiting list. They are sharing beds. They are living in one room – 500 empty homes, it is really not good enough.”

Cllr Terry Mendies said he knew couples who visited their second home in Denbighshire, spending money at local businesses helping to boost the economy.

But Cllr Merfyn Parry then said he had recently witnessed a family losing their home in a village when they were six empty houses across the street.

Leader Cllr Jason McLellan said the council had to work to ensure people didn’t go without a home, pointing to local people having to move elsewhere and children being taken out of schools.

“This is about addressing something that skews them market,” he said. “It skews the market against people trying to buy houses, and it skews the market in terms of people trying to rent houses.”

Councillors voted 35/3 in favour of the rise, and an amendment was added proposing the council would strive to spend funds raised on dealing with homelessness.

By Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter

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