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Council tax break for second home owners facing axe

South Hams second home owners could be forced to pay bigger tax bills to protect the district’s most vulnerable people.
The jobless and low income families who currently claim council tax benefits are faced with finding an extra £256 a year as the Government slashes the amount of cash it contributes to the local benefits pot under it latest welfare reforms.
The South Hams could be worse off than other parts of the country because pensioners are exempt from the changes – and they make up a massive 55 per cent of council tax benefits claimants across the district leaving the rest to pick up even bigger bills.
But South Hams Council is looking at finding the cash to plug the benefits gap by scrapping the 10 per cent council tax discount that currently exists on every one of the district’s 4,000 second homes.
Along with other changes – which include reducing tax exemptions on empty properties – it will produce an extra £143,000 in extra income for the council.
That will not only cover the loss of Government benefits support but leave an extra £88,000 for the council’s coffers.
And it will also mean that existing benefits claimants who do not currently have to pay any or all of their council tax bills will be no worse off.
The move was due to be discussed at a meeting of the district council’s community life and housing scrutiny committee yesterday.
The recommendation due to go before the meeting was to adopt a local council tax scheme which will ‘continue to provide the same level of support to benefits claimants in line with current council tax benefit’.
Similar schemes are being looked at by local authorities across the country in an effort to soften the blow of the welfare reforms on some of the most vulnerable people in society when they come into force next year.
At the moment, second home owners only have to pay 90 per cent of their council tax obligations on their second properties.
The ability for local councils to shove that up to 100 percent has only been made possible recently by changes in the law.
Whatever the scrutiny committee decided yesterday will still have to be approved by both the council executive and a meeting of the whole district council.
The Government is aiming to pull the plug on £625,000 worth of benefits funding in the South Hams – although it will be softening that blow with £144,000 worth of transitional aid for the first year.

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