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Monday, 22 December 2014

Second home tax discount binned

By Richard MachinDISCOUNTS on council tax for second homes are to be abolished in South Lakeland.

Owners of properties in the area which are not their primary residence will see their bill rise from 90 to 100 per cent.

The extra money is to be spent replacing council tax benefit which has been scrapped by central government.

The move was one of a series of crackdowns confirmed by South Lakeland District Council on Tuesday.

Others include the end of council tax discount for properties unoccupied for over six months.

And new penalties of 150 per cent council tax for owners of properties sat empty for more than two years will also be introduced.

“We have campaigned for these changes to council tax discounts for second homes for some time now,” said Councillor David Evans, SLDC’s finance chief.

“The government has now given us the opportunity to do this.

“The important thing about this is that we can use the money to look after and protect the most vulnerable members of our society.”

The authority is set to create a hardship fund for exceptional cases such as lengthy probate cases or complicated legal processes following permanent ill health.

But Cllr Evans warned: “There’s a number of exemptions and the hardship fund will be in place, bearing in mind these difficult financial times.”

Conservative Councillor Ben Berry claimed people would find ways around paying the full amount.

He told SLDC’s full council meeting: “I believe that taking council tax to 100 per cent for second homes is a good thing.

“However, we won’t necessarily know which are the second homes because there will no longer be any incentive for owners to tell us and they can simply register one person as living there to gain the discount.”

But Cllr Evans said the authority would look closely at anyone who attempted to manipulate the system.

“If people are claiming to be single occupiers when they are not we will investigate fully because this is unfair to the paying citizens of South Lakeland.”

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