More to pay for second home owners

THOUSANDS of homeowners today face paying more council tax on their second properties in parts of Suffolk.The news comes after councillors decided to cut their discount – saving taxpayers more than £1million.

THOUSANDS of home-owners today face paying more council tax on second properties in parts of Suffolk.

People who own two homes have enjoyed a 50 per cent discount on their second property - but last night Suffolk Coastal council decided to reduce this to 10pc. This is the minimum allowed under new legislation.

The extra revenue is expected to top £1million in the next financial year which could lead to lower council tax bills.

Around 2,500 homeowners will be affected by the cabinet's decision, which has still to be ratified by the full council.

Councillors asked officers to meet Suffolk County Council to discuss ways of ensuring the revenue raised benefited Suffolk Coastal residents.

The savings will mean around £115,800 extra for Suffolk Coastal, £901,600 for the county council and £110,700 to Suffolk Police Authority. It is hoped it will help keep down increases in the district's council tax bills.

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Suffolk Coastal council leader Ray Herring said: "The income will be generated by Suffolk Coastal and we feel it should be spent to the benefit of Suffolk Coastal residents.

"It will help us keep the council tax increases down. I think it is absolutely right that second home owners should pay the full amount, be it with a 10pc discount.

"It's an issue of fairness and also means people are making a proper contribution to local services."

The Local Government Act 2003 changed the legislation governing council tax and gave billing authorities the power to reduce the discount on second homes.

The government was concerned that it was becoming increasingly difficult for homeowners, particularly first-time buyers, to afford property in areas where there were many second homes.

Peter Collicott, the council's finance director, reported to cabinet that it was also difficult for local people to buy property close to their work or family. In areas where there were second homes there was less use of shops, pubs and post offices.

The discount for long-term empty homes is also being reduced. The cabinet recommended that the 50pc discount should be removed completely to encourage some owners to bring these properties back into use.

There are more than 800 empty properties in the Suffolk Coastal area. It is hoped the homelessness problem will be eased because owners will decide it is not worth keeping houses empty.

n What do you think of the council's decision? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail evening-

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