Second home owners will have to pay more
COUNCIL tax discounts for owners of second homes, which are vacant or in need of major repair, are to be abolished or reduced.
South Hams Council is hoping to raise cash so it does not have to reduce its services for the most vulnerable.
The increases mean owners of properties which remain empty for more than two years will be charged 150 per cent council tax to encourage the houses to be bought back into use.
About 4,200 people in the area own a second home and will lose their 10 per cent council tax discount.
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The change means they will have to pay the full 100 per cent in council tax.
The charges will be introduced in April at the same time as the government abolishes the council tax benefit system which would have affected around 2,800 working age households in the district.
Money from the new charges will now be used to offset any increases in council tax for these households, many of whom are among the most vulnerable in the South Hams.
Cllr John Tucker (pictured), leader of South Hams Council, said all councils nationwide have been tasked with drawing up their own localised council tax support schemes.
Some councils will be charging their vulnerable residents for a portion towards their council tax, while others, such as South Hams, have decided not to for at least 12 months.
Cllr Tucker said: "The Government has given us the opportunity to introduce these extra charges and we feel that second home owners in particular should contribute fully to our communities at a time when budgets are tight.
"Our poorest residents are already being hit by several cuts in benefits in 2013 and we need to protect them as much as we can.
"However, we do need to stress we can only guarantee the current level of protection for the next financial year."
The council will also apply for extra funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government to help with the transition to a localised council tax support scheme.
This is only available to councils who protect the most vulnerable.