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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Second-home council tax 'to double'
Thatched cottage
Second-home owners to lose 50% council tax discount
Hundreds of thousands of second-home owners will have their council tax doubled under new government plans.

Stephen Byers, the secretary of state for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, is expected to propose the abolition of the 50% discount received on council tax bills for second homes.

The reform will affect about 230,000 second-home owners and cost about 350 a year for home owners in areas charging the average national tax of 697 for a Band D property.

Under the proposed scheme, which is likely to be introduced within the next two years, local authorities in England will have the right to charge the full amount of council tax.

Priced-out

Mr Byers wants to recover money to provide low-cost housing and improved services for local rural communities.

Completing a council tax form
Rural communities should benefit

Many people who live in the country struggle to buy affordable accommodation because they have been "priced-out" by outsiders.

They also complain that the soul of rural life has been destroyed by second-home owners who rarely visit their properties.

Purbeck in Dorset has one of the highest concentrations of second homes in England.

In total, there are 15,278 second homes. In Studland, for example, a popular area, nearly a quarter of the 260 homes are occupied for only part of the year.

Local authorities in Wales have already clamped down on second home ownership and councils have the right to levy full council tax.

'Privileged' should be banned

Among the second-home owners affected by the reforms would be a number of government ministers, including Environment Minister Michael Meacher.

In 1999, Mr Meacher said that the "privileged" should be banned from buying second homes as they were "robbing" local communities.

Mr Meacher shares his time between a home in south-west London, one in Gloucestershire and his constituency home in Chadderton, Oldham.

The change could even affect the royal family. The Prince of Wales, for example, gets a 50% council tax discount on his Gloucestershire home Highgrove.

See also:

13 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Meacher pledges council tax changes
28 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Prescott's boost for rural living
24 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Local tax rates shake up
22 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Disappointment over council tax hike
16 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Council tax 'rises above inflation'
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