Council tax discount to be slashed

February 6th 2004

Owners of second homes could be hit in the wallet by a recent decision to slash the usual discount on council tax.

Until recently, second home owners in Oxfordshire enjoyed a discount of 50 per cent on council tax, but the decision by Oxford City Council and West Oxfordshire District Council has reduced that discount to just 10 per cent.

The decision was made early this month and will take effect from April 1 this year.

Christopher Dewe, from Knight Frank estate agency, believes the decision is unfair. He said: “The occupiers of second homes are only using a fraction of the local services such as waste disposal and probably not using schools, leisure centres, hospitals or subsidised transport.

If discounts are cut then second home owners will, in effect, be subsidising the council’s budget shortfall as they will now be expected to pay virtually the same as their permanent home neighbours.

Such an added extra expense to a weekender could be the deciding factor in persuading someone where to buy or whether to sell, and making second-home type properties harder to sell is not beneficial to village life. Weekenders contribute a lot to the local economy.

Mary Neale, West Oxfordshire District Council’s Finance Officer, said: “We have serious housing problems in the district. Many people can’t afford to buy homes here – some can’t afford to rent, either.

Second homes are occupied by people who use the services that we provide, and it’s fair enough that they should pay for these.

The money assists in helping out everybody who lives here. I don’t think the increase will discourage people from buying second properties in the area.

However, if your property is unoccupied, expect to pay more. Owners of houses which lie empty on a long-term basis will have to pay 100 per cent of the council tax for the area.

Mary Neale said: “There is a shortage of affordable housing in West Oxfordshire. Making owners of empty homes pay more tax will encourage people to rent out or sell empty houses.”