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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 17:46 GMT
Tax rise for second homes
House signs
In the South Hams, 11% of properties are second homes
A council in Devon has become the first in the country to reduce the council tax discount given to second home owners.

Members of South Hams District Council decided by a majority vote on Thursday to reduce the second home owners discount from the current 50% to 10%.

The council says the measure will raise an extra 2 million a year which can be spent on solutions such as affordable housing.

With 11.5%, or 4,704, of its properties used part time, the South Hams has the highest number of second homes outside the Isles of Scilly.

Rule change

The problem is particularly bad in East Portlemouth on the Salcombe estuary, where 54% of the houses are second homes.

Recently the government changed the rules to enable councils to reduce the discount, and South Hams is the first council to take advantage.

The 90% rate is the maximum permitted under the Local Government Act 2003.

It is estimated that if all Devon councils followed suit it would raise an extra 7m a year.

South Hams council leader Richard Yonge said: "We would spend the money on housing, not just at the social rented level, but also the middle band for people who are young professionals who have to live in these places for their work."

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