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Council tax changes could go out to consultation

Changes could be made to council tax bills in Swansea to make them fairer by asking those with more than one home to contribute more.

Guildhall

Swansea Council's cabinet is being asked to consider consulting on plans to introduce a council tax premium on second and holiday homes and long-term empty properties.

Many councils in Wales with high numbers of such homes have already introduced such measures and Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart said it would help to keep council tax lower for other residents in the future.

Cabinet is also being asked to consult on proposals that would end the 50% discount that is currently available to people who own homes that are empty and unfurnished to bring Swansea in line with many other councils in Wales.

Council Leader Rob Stewart said: "The bulk of our funding comes from Central Government but this money has reduced year after year.

"Despite making savings of £70m in the last five years we face a budget shortfall of £24.5m in the coming year and we need to look at how we can protect our schools from the rising cost of teachers pay and pensions while continuing to support the most vulnerable members of our community.

"One of the fairest ways to do this is could be to ensure that council tax is equitable and those who can afford to, pay more.

"People with second homes and holiday homes can afford to contribute more than the majority of our residents - many of whom struggle to keep one home going.

"Despite ongoing austerity our overriding priority has always been to protect the vital front line services that people rely on and generating more funding in this way means we can invest in those services so that everyone benefits.

"Many councils have already done this and we are coming into line with those."

Whether councils allow a council tax discount on empty properties is discretionary and many in Wales do not.

The Welsh Government has indicated that in future it may no longer make allowances for authorities that offer the discount when calculating the central funding it receives so Swansea could lose investment if it does not make the change.

In Swansea there are currently 2,206 unfurnished and unoccupied dwellings liable for a 50% council tax charge.

If the council decides to introduce a premium on second and holiday homes then it needs to announce the changes at least one year before it is introduced so should, after consultation, the council decide to implement the measure it would not come into force until at least April 2021.

Exemptions would be made for certain circumstances including dwellings that are up for sale or rent during their first year on the market, dwellings that would usually be the main home of members of the armed forces living in service accommodation, seasonal homes where year-round occupation is prohibited and job-related properties.

Councillor Stewart added: "No decision has been taken and the purpose of the consultation should it proceed will to gather as many views as possible on the pros and cons of the proposal.

"Should cabinet decide to proceed, then how to take part in the consultation will be publicised and everyone who wants to will have a chance to have their say."

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