Tuesday, 1 November 2011

An extra £2 million for local services - thanks to the Lib Dems in government

Cornwall Council would be in line for an income boost of almost £2 million per year once the Government enacts their proposal to allow councils to do away with the council tax discount for second homes.

At the moment, second homes in Cornwall receive the minimum discount allowed by law - 10%. There are about 14,095 properties in Cornwall for which a second home discount is claimed and the total discount is around £1,972,000 per year.

This change is long-standing Lib Dem policy and is being enacted because the party is now in government.

Of course the final decision as to whether or not to end the discount is down to the Council - but Cornwall Council voted at full council in favour of a motion calling for the end to the discount and so that side of things should be no problem.

What to do with the money might be more of an issue. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles likes to pretend that it could mean £20 off the average council tax bill. Money off would be useful, of course. But the alternative would be to restore some of the services that Cornwall Council's Conservatives seem intent on cutting (like their plans to close more than 100 public toilets, for example) or fixing their mistakes (such as the likely removal of many bus routes across Cornwall thanks to their forgetting that they had a huge £2 million hole in their budget).

As well as the discount for second homes, the Government is also looking at removing the automatic six month council tax holiday for empty properties and introducing an empty homes premium to allow councils to charge up to 50% extra council tax on homes that have been empty for two years or more. However exemptions for homes empty because the owner has died, moved into hospital or a care home will not be changing. Tackling the scourge of empty homes was one of the major Lib Dem asks in the coalition negotiations.

Finally, the Government is looking to allow council tax payments to be spread over 12 months rather than the current system of ten monthly payments.

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