Doubling council tax for second homes and long-term empty properties in Herefordshire could raise an additional £12 million for vital services in the county.

Speaking at Herefordshire Council’s cabinet meeting, December 15, Coalition councillor Liz Harvey told colleagues that the potential measures are intended to bring empty properties back into occupation quickly and recognise the impact of the second homes on housing availability for local people, describing it as ‘an important and long overdue addition to the council’s revenue raising toolkit."

Cllr Harvey said: "It is a persistent concern that Herefordshire residents struggle to buy and to rent suitable and affordable accommodation. I hope government make sure the Levelling Up Bill does keep to its promised timetable. This government has been woeful in its failure to keep promises related to reform and enhancement of local government finances. As early as Monday of this week we started to hear of yet more aspects of the promised funding reform have been kicked yet further down the road by the Minister. Please let’s all hope that this legislation remains on track."

"If second homeowners seek to avoid these additional charges, they must do so by providing their homes to the visitor economy – thereby increasing visitor numbers and money spent throughout the local economy as a consequence. If the result is that second homes become available for local people to rent longer term or to buy – then that is another positive consequence."

"In these straitened times it is appropriate that we maximise the freedoms and flexibilities available in future years to generate income to support statutory, essential and much appreciated discretionary services for the benefit of our residents and our occasional visitors."

The Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill published in May 2022 includes discretionary options for increasing Council Tax premiums on empty properties and second homes. Subject to the Bill receiving Royal Assent the proposed changes will come into effect on April 1, 2024. Herefordshire Council has until March 31, 2023 to move a resolution through the council’s governance processes if it wants the freedoms and flexibilities to implement increased Council Tax charges for second homes and empty properties.

Coalition councillors approved the proposal which will need the approval of the full council in February.

The report to councillors said: "Second home ownership across the county is significant and is recognised to have a negative impact on the supply of homes available to meet local housing need. Initial, high level, analysis based on census data shows that the application of a 100 per cent premium on approximately 6,900 second homes within Herefordshire could generate in excess of £12m in additional Council Tax revenue."