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Denbighshire North Wales Politics

Denbighshire supports premium council tax increase on second and empty homes

A PREMIUM council tax charge for owners of second homes and long-term empty properties in Denbighshire could increase to 100% next year and 150% in April 2025.

Denbighshire County Council’s cabinet supported a report that will now go to full council for a decision in September.

And if that report is passed, owners of homes unoccupied and unfurnished for five years or more could pay an additional 50% more than the standard charge proposed.

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

Cllr Emrys Wynne spoke on the matter at today’s (Tuesday) cabinet meeting and said Denbighshire weren’t being unreasonable, arguing local people needed homes to live in.

“We are treading carefully here,” said Cllr Wynne.

“We are not being very unreasonable. What it is is going step by step to make sure we’ve got an increase in the housing stock (for people) unable to find a home, and I don’t think there is any community in Denbighshire where there isn’t a demand for a home for an individual or a family.

“So we need to bear that in mind. This is an opportunity for us to start to resolve that problem. It is just the start. There is more work to be done.”

Backbencher Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts pointed out there were grey areas that could cause problems for the council when trying to police who pays what.

One example Cllr Hilditch-Roberts gave was a second home owner being charged a premium when trying to sell their property, and another example he gave was people trying to pay business rates instead of council tax by listing properties as holiday homes.

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Council officer Leah Gray said the council had the power to be lenient and look at cases individually to see if exemptions to premiums applied but explained there were strict rules on who paid council tax and who paid business rates.

“We do have a number of exemptions to the premium,” she said.

“A property isn’t classed as a long-term empty until it’s been unoccupied and unfurnished for 12 months. If a property is on the open market for sale or to let, they have a further 12 months, so in effect you’ve got two years there where there would be no premium, and if we did have a specific circumstance that wasn’t covered by any of them (the list of exceptions), we can look at it case by case.”

She added that homes paying business rates rather than council tax had to be let for 140 days a year.

Leader Cllr Jason McLellan then said the council would try and deal with exceptional circumstances or hardships on a case-by-case basis so not to risk creating loopholes that could be exploited by property owners.

“As soon as you start creating exemptions, you create loopholes. So if you look at it on a case-by-case basis, that’s a good way of dealing with it. There is a clear list of exceptions, and I’m satisfied that, behind the exemptions, we’ve got a bit of flexibility as well.”

Cabinet debated the proposals following Denbighshire carrying out a public consultation on the matter.

The council said the majority of respondents living in Denbighshire felt there was a need for an increase in the council tax premium; however, second home and long-term empty owners did not generally support the proposals.

Cllr Ellen Heaton proposed cabinet members backed the report, and this was seconded by Cllr Emrys Wynne.

The vote was unanimous, and the report will now go to full council in September.