A Ledbury councillor says plans to double the amount of council tax paid on second homes are “long overdue”.

A report put before Herefordshire Council cabinet members described proposals to apply a premium on 6,900 second homes in the county, as well as long-term empty properties.

It said the plans could raise as much as £12 million to fund vital services in Herefordshire.

Liz Harvey, the cabinet member for finance and planning, told colleagues the measures are intended to bring empty properties back into occupation quickly and recognise the impact of second homes on housing availability.

“It is an important and long overdue addition to the council’s revenue raising toolkit,” she said.

“It is a persistent concern that Herefordshire residents struggle to buy and to rent suitable and affordable accommodation.

“If second homeowners seek to avoid these additional charges, they must do so by providing their homes to the visitor economy – thereby increasing visitor numbers and money spent throughout the local economy as a consequence.

“If the result is that second homes become available for local people to rent longer term or to buy – then that is another positive consequence.

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“In these straitened times it is appropriate that we maximise the freedoms and flexibilities available in future years to generate income to support statutory, essential and much appreciated discretionary services for the benefit of our residents and our occasional visitors.”

The Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill includes discretionary options for increasing council tax premiums on empty properties and second homes.

Subject to the Bill receiving Royal Assent, the proposed changes will come into effect on April 1, 2024.

Herefordshire Council has until March 31, 2023 to move a resolution if it wants the freedoms and flexibilities to implement increased council tax charges for second homes and empty properties. Full council meets in February.

“I hope the Government makes sure the Levelling Up Bill does keep to its promised timetable,” added Cllr Harvey. “This government has been woeful in its failure to keep promises related to reform and enhancement of local government finances.

“As early as Monday of this week we started to hear of yet more aspects of the promised funding reform have been kicked yet further down the road by the Minister. Please let’s all hope that this legislation remains on track.”