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BCP Council approves tax hike change for owners of empty second homes

Second-home owners in Christchurch whose properties have been empty for more than a year will soon see their council tax bill doubled.

Residents currently must pay the “tax premium” if their property has been empty for more than two years, but BCP has decided to impose the charge after just a year from April 2025.

For homes that are unoccupied and “substantially unfurnished” for more than five years, owners must pay 200% more, and after 10 years the amount shoots up to 300% extra.

BCP Council say the tax rise on second home owners was needed to help fund the authority
BCP Council say the tax rise on second home owners was needed to help fund the authority

The latest full council meeting heard the move would earn the cash-strapped authority, which is trying to plug a £52m budget deficit, an additional £6m.

It will also “reinforce the incentive for owners to bring empty properties back into use”, said the authority.

Lib Dem Cllr David Brown told members he endorsed the recommendation by officers to bring the timeframe down.

“The empty homes surplus is an additional tax we really do need to fund the council,” he said. “Obviously we are very limited in terms of our council tax increase – we can only really take it up by 4.99% without a referendum and that is one of those avenues you wouldn’t necessarily want to go down.”

Members also looked at implications of the government’s Autumn Statement on BCP’s medium-term financial plan.

Christchurch’s Cllr Mike Cox, cabinet member for finance, said an increase in the national living wage and a rise in foster allowance, coupled with a £1.8m reduction in the government’s services grant, had pushed the council further into financial hardship.

“I would remind councillors that in the current year, 2023-24, we have taken £30m out of reserves in order to balance the budget,” he said. “That is a completely unsustainable position – we took £30m from reserves in the previous year and another £30m the year before that.

“We have made significant progress to balance the budget for 2024-25, and that’s been done by making some very difficult decisions, but then the government intervened and there was an increase in the living wage and fosters allowance, all unfunded so we must pick up the tab.

“We still have some way to go to balance the budget and there’s only a few weeks left – but I’m confident we’ll get there in the end.”

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