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Pembrokeshire facing nearly £9m in council tax arrears

Pembrokeshire County Council

PEMBROKESHIRE is facing nearly £9m in council tax arrears, in part due to an “unprecedented bloc” of some 90 homes unable to meet the 182-day holiday letting guidelines, leaving their owners liable for second homes premium rates.

Pembrokeshire had been operating a 100 per cent council tax premium for second homes, effectively a double rate.

However, in December councillors backed a 200 per cent council tax premium, effectively a treble rate, for second homes.

Properties used as holiday lets were exempt from the premium if they could be let over a number of days per year, which has risen to 182, up from a previous 70.

Since the premium rise, effective from the start of this financial year, second home-owners have been faced with hefty council tax bills, as much as £15,000 in some cases.

A call for information related to the premium was heard at the May 9 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Martletwy county councillor, and Conservative group leader of the council, Cllr Di Clements will ask: “Can the Cabinet member for Finance [Cllr Alec Cormack] please provide me with the number of properties that have applied for a council tax exemption since the delivery of this year’s council tax bill?

“This should be split out by properties that were charged a second homes premium and properties which were not charged a second homes premium.”

County Councillor Di Clements (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cllr Cormack responded by saying there were seven classes of “exception rather than exemption” from the premium, with five static and two with changed figures.

Of those two changed, he said Class 1, properties currently for sale, had seen a rise from 34 on March 1, to 81 on May 1.

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The second exception, Class 6, properties which had a planning condition restricting occupancy leading to an exception in the premium, had seen a rise from 402 to 417 during the same period.

He said figures were now being recorded monthly to provide feedback on the Welsh Government 182-day lettings rule.

A similar pair of questions were raised later by Cllr Clements.

“Can the Cabinet member for Finance provide me with the current number of properties in council tax arrears and the total figure of such arrears?

“What were the above figures a year ago, and what are the estimated figures a year from now?”

Cllr Cormack responded, saying the March 2023 figures were 9,458, with 9,860 as of March 31 of this year.

He said provisional council arrears were £8.819m for 2023-24, compared with £7.175m for 2022-’23.

“The past history is there’s been significant figures downwards; a significant element in the increase is due to the approximately 90 properties which the valuation officer agency moved from non-domestic rates to council tax, an unprecedented bloc, these people move into council tax by virtue of in the previous 12 months they haven’t done 182 days in the previous year; so the they immediately become in arrears for a whole year’s council tax and the council tax premium.”

Cllr Alec Cormack, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance (Pic: Pembrokeshire county Council webcast)

Cllr Clements, in a supplementary question, said: “I’ve been contacted by people who have £7,000 to £15,000 council tax bills; that’s huge amount of money for then to find, so how can you help these people? What have you put in place to help these people manage that debt? Many out there are panicking, quite reasonably.”

Cllr Cormack responded, saying anyone in such a situation should contact the revenues and benefits team, which was reaching payments plans for such circumstances.

“They are talking to people; they are reaching payment plans with individuals who have had a large bill appear.

“Talk to the team and they will see what they can do. I know the team is dealing with a much larger number of enquiries.”

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