Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Council to join with Camden Council
to lobby Government to allow Councils to charge increased Council Tax to owners of long-term empty properties by increasing the premium, reducing the minimum period from two years to one year, and removing the loophole allowing council tax exemption for unoccupied furnished homes.
Councillor David Boothroyd, Labour’s Finance spokesperson, has written to Westminster’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Melvyn Caplan, to set out the case;
With the Council budget under renewed pressure, I believe the Council has a duty to make the most of other forms of income before imposing on Westminster residents. The Labour group has been looking closely at the powers to charge owners of long-term empty properties.
In December, a report to the Cabinet pointed to loopholes in the law, making the empty property premium “very easy to evade”. Owners either put some furniture in and claim the property is a second home, or claim that the property is “on the market”, to qualify for a statutory exemption to any premium.
While Westminster took this complacent view and did nothing, Camden did impose a premium and has found it is effective in encouraging occupation of long-term empty properties: they have fallen by more than a third in less than a year.
Your Camden counterpart, Theo Blackwell, is now pressing the Secretary of State (see http://theoblackwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/camden-targets-buy-to-leave-speculators.html) to help them build on their success by increasing the premium, reducing the minimum period from two years to one year, and removing the loophole allowing council tax exemption for unoccupied furnished homes.
I am writing to ask you if you will join Theo in approaching the Secretary of State in his request. As you may know your colleagues on planning committees share the general outrage at the ‘Buy-to-Leave’ scandal where homes in Westminster are left empty at a time of a housing crisis. It may also make workable an untapped source of income to support council services. Because this is a matter of general interest I am releasing this letter to the press.
Councillor David Boothroyd