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Tax premium exemption call for properties under renovation expected to fail 

Pembrokeshire County Council

A CALL to allow council officers the ability to suspend the empty properties council tax premium for Pembrokeshire homes under renovation is expected to be turned down by senior councillors later this week.

In addition to the normal council tax, which saw a 12.5 per cent increase in the county earlier this year, second homes and empty property owners pay a premium rate.

Second home-owners in the county are now paying a 200 per cent premium, effectively a treble council tax level.

Owners of empty properties pay on a sliding scale in Pembrokeshire, with a 100 per cent premium after 24 months, 200 per cent after 36 months, and a whopping 300 per cent after five years.

A call for an exemption for ‘empty’ properties currently being uninhabited, but in the process of being brought back to use, has been made by Merlin’s Bridge county councillor John Cole.

Haverfordwest Merlins Bridge councillor John Cole (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cllr Cole, in a notice of motion first heard at the May meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council but now to be heard at Cabinet’s July 11 meeting, has asked: “With the council’s unanimous decision to increase the empty property council tax, at the last March council meeting, it would appear that even though the decision was right and proper, as empty homes serve no purpose in the community etc it would seem that a number of such properties are in fact under renovation by owners to bring back into use, as per an email received by one family in that position outlying their concerns of having such a charge on the property, putting their renovation plans and dreams in jeopardy.

“Renovation is a costly and time-consuming in many instances, and having to use funds for renovation to pay such an additional cost, as they are already liable for council tax, will lead to delays, and abandonment of renovations.

“I would like to put forward the following: That council revenue officers have the authority to exempt such properties proved to be under renovation for eventual use as a main home from the extra charges on top of the standard property charge; time frame on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with such projects undertaken.”

A report for Cabinet members recommends support for Cllr Cole’s motion in part, saying any granting of a discretionary discount is decided on a case-by-case level on its own merits.

“Any discretionary discount is however awarded for a temporary period of time only and is not an ongoing exemption as requested in the Notice of Motion,” the report says.

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“Cabinet have committed to review our discretionary discount policy later this year when there is more evidence available on the effect the Welsh Government changes to number of days properties [currently 182 days] have to be let in order to qualify for business rates has had on owners of self-catering units in Pembrokeshire.”

It sys a public consultation, along with a review to include empty properties and a subsequent Cabinet review on policy is expected later in the year.

Members are recommended to reject the motion, pending the policy review expected in October.

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