By Ian Dipple Friday 21 September 2012 Updated: 24/09 17:09
PEOPLE with second homes could have to pay full Council Tax in future as part of changes being considered by Redditch Borough Council in response to government welfare cuts.
The current 50 per cent discount could be scrapped completely while the same reduction in payments on properties left empty for over six months could also disappear. Owners of properties left empty for up to six months, which currently pay no Council Tax, could now have to pay anywhere between 40 per cent and all of the total bill.
Another option being looked at is to only allow council tax discounts on Band D properties and below - those worth up to £88,000 based on 1991 prices when the last valuation was carried out - for those working age families on low incomes.
The measures will be subject to an eight week public consultation to allow residents to have their say on the changes, which could affect close to 650 properties, before a final decision is made in January. The scheme will be introduced from April next year.
The Government's welfare reforms mean instead of being allowed to claim back cash for claimants from the Department of Work and Pensions, in future the council will be given a grant based on predicted demand and allowed to set its own criteria for who should receive support.
But they will only get 90 per cent of the money. Redditch Borough Council spends £6.5million on Council Tax benefit, which means a shortfall of £650,000.
Only £90,000 of the gap falls on the borough council, the rest is divided between Worcestershire County Council, the fire and police service which also receive a percentage of each Council Tax bill.
The Government has already stated it expects councils to protect the elderly and vulnerable meaning families of working age will be forced to bear the brunt.
Coun Greg Chance, a member of the council's executive committee, told a meeting on Tuesday (September 18) by reducing certain discounts currently offered, the council hoped to plug some of the gap and reduce the burden on those who will be affected.
"We have not chosen to go out and take more money off people, we are doing this because we have to implement a stealth tax by this government. We are looking at doing it in a way so it falls on the shoulders of those who can afford to pay, not those who can't."
Coun Mike Braley criticised his own government for insisting the elderly must be protected as he felt the burden should fall across the board. But while he supported some level of charge on empty properties he warned against making unfair and excessive changes which could portray the council as spiteful.
"This idea all large houses are occupied by rich people is false, a large number belong to retired people and some are in hospital so they are empty for that reason."
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