Empty Homes Tax
Fylde is once again about to increase the charge it makes on homes that have been 'unoccupied and substantially unfurnished' for more than two years.
Historically, councils used to give 50% tax discounts for empty property (because empty property did not make full demands on public services).
But now the plan is to charge people FOUR TIMES the normal council tax from April 2021 if the property has been empty and unfurnished for more than ten years.
We say there is no justification for this.
But then, we think Council Tax should still be what it was designed to be, the shared cost of delivering the public services we need.
We don't think it should ever be weaponised in order to change public behaviour, nor do we think it should become an 'off balance sheet' backdoor cash generating
We begin with an Introduction to local taxation, before looking How we got here, and How it used to be. Then
we use a building analogy to look at the Harbingers of change and How change began, leading to the
Foundations of a new system, the Underlying principles of change, and putting the First
bricks on the foundation before going on to Build the wall.
Next we Recap the ordinary Council Tax and the new Empty Homes Premium, before looking at What
Fylde has done so far, and What we think they are going to do (based on the Committee report), and What happened in
Next we look at Some Definitions: What's a Second home; what's 'Unoccupied and substantially unfurnished;
and at How the Empty Period is calculated; before considering an Exemption for Marketing for sale or rent (which
applies in Wales and Scotland); and Military Exemptions.
Then we look at A few Quirks that lurk amongst the Council Tax regulations, including: A discount anomaly;
Liability for the Empty Homes Premium; Single people vacating a furnished property; Some
Landlord liability issues; Renovation; Tied Accommodation; Ministers of religion;
and a few Other quirks.
Looking forward, we note the Forthcoming Council Meeting and give our take on What Fylde Council Will decide to do,
before giving Our own conclusions, and adding A final thought.
We tend to think of Conservative led administrations being supportive of, and if possible expanding, the scale and scope of Britain as a property owning democracy.
There are good reasons to think this should be the case.
From the universally shared belief in the fundamental statement that 'An Englishman's home is his castle' - through Margaret Thatcher's sale of rented council housing to
sitting tenants at very significant discounted valuation prices, to George Osborne's 2013 'Help To Buy' scheme providing subsidies to help first time buyers purchase their own
homes to start them on the 'housing ladder', the thrust of Conservative policy over decades has been to persuade more and more people to own their own homes, and to help people
to do so.
And we're not decrying any of this.
We agree that for those who can afford it, and for those that don't expect frequent changes of workplace, owning your own home is probably the best cultural and financial
investment you can make.
So it has been with some puzzlement that we have watched this policy shift to property owners being penalised if their property is kept empty.
But that's now most definitely the case.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The Ways It Used To Be
In the beginning (Tudor times), a system of 'Rating' of property was introduced to fund schemes for 'relief of the poor.'
Over centuries that slowly transitioned into a tax for the services that our
Councils delivered to us.
Regular readers will know this is a recurring theme in our articles over the years. The tax was paid in respect of public services that would be too expensive or uneconomic
for individuals, families or small groups to provide themselves, but they were necessary for the public good.
Good examples were: road building and maintenance, parks and open spaces, refuse collection and disposal, and so on.
Councils estimated the cost of providing these services each year, then divided it between all the households in their area to arrive at the charge everyone had to pay
because it was structured as a tax (not an optional charge).
However, because the charge directly related the service, if some households plainly didn't use or couldn't get the service, it was the case that for this type of property,
a discount had to be applied.
So it was that, before 2004, if you owned a property in England, but no individuals lived there all the time - technically: it was NOT their 'sole or main residence' (and
this classification included holiday homes, empty homes, second homes and so on), all Councils were (by law) required to impose a 50% discount on the tax that would otherwise
be due from it.
Empty homes = half-rate; Simples.
The underlying theory was that there were less bins to empty and much less use of the public services for which the tax was demanded for a property that no-one lived in.
We thought that was a pretty fair (if perhaps, a bit crudely calculated) system.
Harbingers Of Change
But just before Christmas in 2000 the Government of the day signalled what was not seen at the time, but was later shown to have been, a very big change in policy.
They published a 'White Paper' ("this is something we're going to do") heralding a new direction.
They planned to give councils discretion to end the discount to empty homes.
The man in charge at the time (Mr Blair) has become famous for all sorts of things, one of which was having is campaign song called "Things Can Only Get Better."
We wondered - 'for whom?'
The Change Begins
And after the White Paper, regulations were published that introduced two new measures.
These regulations ALLOWED (not required) councils to reduce council tax discounts for *second homes* from 50% to 10%; and from 50% to 0% for ‘unoccupied and substantially
Looked at another way, things were definitely getting better for Councils.
They were now able to charge the full tax on unoccupied and unfurnished property, and they could
charge up to 90% of the tax on second homes.
Discounts for non-use of services were clearly on the way out.
The Foundations Of A New System
We now shuttle forward to 2012 and the Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition Government which, with its Local Government Finance Act of 2012, made sweeping changes to all
local government funding - some of which are still working their way through the system and have not yet been implemented.
In respect of changes made to empty homes, three were notable.
- In our view, the most noteworthy change was that Councils would in future be allowed to keep any extra income they could raise from the new arrangements, and they could
use it for whatever purposes they wanted. This broke the link that required public services to be delivered at a shared cost.
- But for most, the headline change was that a dwelling that has been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for a continuous period of at least two years could now also
be charged an EXTRA 'Empty Homes Premium' of up to 50% of its council tax charge - if a council decided to make such a charge.
- A less well known provision was that Government gave allow councils almost complete discretion over the level of council tax discount and the time-period for which it may apply to
an empty home.
It was less known because hardly any councils continued to give the 50% discounts that - before this change in the law - they HAD to provide.
The kicked the idea of discounts for empty property in to the deepest part of the longest grass they could find, and it's still there today.
The Underlying Principles Of The Change
The idea, and the clear (if unstated) intention of these changes was to break the historic link between the delivery of public services and the tax needed to pay for them.
The new measures were said to allow councils more flexibility in setting taxes on 'empty homes' and to provide 'incentives' to home owners to bring more empty homes back
Local taxation was being weaponised to change our behaviour.
So, as with much that emanated from the Cameron/Clegg era (and the Blair/Brown era before it), established 'tried and tested' methodologies were ditched, and the whole
culture of Local Government began to shift direction - we would say for the worse.
No longer would we share the cost of services, the future was to be about finding ways of extracting money from taxpayers, but not through traditional taxation.
Under the guise of 'helping to provide more living accommodation', owners of empty property were now to be 'encouraged' not to let homes stay empty for long periods.
Unlike Mr Blair's campaign anthem, things were definitely not going to get better for people who, for whatever reason, owned long term empty property.
Putting Bricks On The Foundations
That's because very few councils chose to continue to give the discounts they had been giving for empty homes and, at the same time, many - if not most - councils chose to
implement the punitive Premium 'excess' charge of 50% on qualifying homes.
So in 2013, (again from a Conservative Government), property that was empty and unfinished for two years or more was being charged at a total Council Tax of 150% of the
normal council tax for that property. (That's100% normal tax and 50% premium tax)
Building The Wall
Then, in 2017, the Government declared it was planning to increase the maximum that could be charged to 200%, in effect this was to be 'double the normal council tax'
However, after amendments to the legislation were made in the House of Lords, the final result came out as follows in 2018:
- 100% extra (for properties empty for 2-5 years)
- 200% extra (for properties empty for 5-10 years) [commencing in 2020]
- 300% extra (for properties empty for 10+ years) [commencing in 2021]
In other words, once all these provisions come into force, almost all council tax-payers with empty and unfurnished homes would be required to pay 200% of the normal council
tax bill after two years empty; 300% of the normal bill after five years; and 400% of the normal bill after ten years.
We could understand if this measure had been introduced by a rabid left-wing government who didn't support the principle of private ownership of property. But it wasn't. It was introduced by a Conservative government.
But as ever, in its best 'Pontius Pilate' mode, the Government cleverly distanced itself and washed its hands of responsibility for this move, saying that it remained up to the
billing authority (the local council) to decide what rate of empty homes premium it wanted to impose, within these limits.
And that, of course, was at the same time as the Government slashed the Rate Support Grant it had traditionally given as support spending to all local councils.
TIME FOR A QUICK RECAP
For the sake of completeness, we'll briefly mention 'ordinary Council Tax' at this point as well so as not to confuse readers
Normal lived-in homes carry the 'normal' council tax for that property and those living in it have to pay that sum. (But there are discounts where less than two adults live
For readers who are curious about how this works, broadly speaking, the property itself generates 50% of the Council tax bill, and each adult resident - up to a maximum of 2
- generates another 25% of the bill, - so a property with 2 adult residents pays (50%, plus 2 x 25%) which is 100% of the 'assumed' two adult household. Single adult
households pay only (50% + 25%) which is 75% of the assumed two adult household.
For long-term empty property - say where someone has died with a complicated estate to sort out, or where big building works are taking place over a long time and suchlike,
Councils CAN decide to apply discounts if they choose to do so because the property is 'empty'.
Whilst the law allows them considerable discretion over the council tax discount they CAN (not must) grant to unoccupied properties, and when the discount period should
Alternatively, a council can decide not to implement any discounts.
This means the owner has to pay the full council tax payment for empty property.
And this was what most
councils did of course.
That said, there are some statutory exemptions relating to things like property sale after a death, and going into care so on, but we're not going into them here because
this article is chiefly about property that has been empty and unfurnished for 2 or more years.
The New Empty Homes Premium
The main focus of this article is, in effect, the separate and additional charge from the Council tax that is already payable. But it is linked to Council Tax because it is charged at a
multiple of what the 'normal' council tax for the empty property would be.
Councils CAN (not must) choose to set this ‘Empty Homes Premium’ for properties that have been empty and unfurnished for more than a specified period (usually for more than
The terms on which the premium is set varies between England, Scotland and Wales, but the amount payable depends on how long the property has been empty, irrespective of who
owns it. (And that can be important, as we'll see later).
There are specific rules and definitions about what is unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’ and so on, and we'll have quick look at them later. But broadly speaking,
the Empty Homes Premium that will be payable is:
- 100% extra (for properties empty for 2-5 years) [commenced April 2019]
- 200% extra (for properties empty for 5-10 years) [commencing in 2020]
- 300% extra (for properties empty for 10+ years) [commencing in 2021]
So if a council offers no discount for empty properties, and it charges the maximum it is allowed to charge, the owners of qualifying empty and unfurnished property would,
IN TOTAL be paying
- From April 2019
200% (double) the normal council tax for that property simply because it has been empty for between 2 and 5 years
- From April 2020
300% (treble) the normal council tax for that property simply because it has been empty for between 5 and 10 years
- From 2021
400% (quadruple) the normal council tax for that property simply because it has been empty for more than 10 years.
In our view this should not be charged as a tax.
To us it represents nothing more than punishment of the property-owning democracy to which, over decades, Conservative Governments have advocated we should all belong.
We say it is both a step too far, and a step in the wrong direction by a government that we argue should have no right to interfere in such matters.
SO WHAT HAS FYLDE COUNCIL DONE ?
Well, in response to the new laws and regulations as they emerged, in January 2014, Fylde took advantage of the new power to charge an extra 50% Council tax on qualifying empty properties in
Fylde, and decided to do to.
Then in February 2019, as soon as the new legislation allowed it to do so, Fylde approved the introduction of a Council Tax Premium level of 100% payable in respect of such
properties. This was payable from 1st April 2019.
So as at today, people with qualifying empty and unfurnished properties in Fylde are paying a Premium Charge of 100% of the normal council tax.
This means they are, in effect, paying double Council Tax for owning an empty property that is consuming few or no services provided by the Council.
AND WHAT ARE FYLDE GOING TO DO?
On 7th January this year, Fylde's Environment, Health And Housing Committee considered a report called 'Council Tax Premium 2020/21 And 2021/22'
You just know where this is going, don't you dear reader....
The Committee was told about the possibility to further increase the punitive Empty Homes Premium charge to 200%, 300% and 400% as we've set out above.
So did Fylde's Conservative dominated committee consider its hard-pressed property-owning democracy and decide to leave things as they were?
No, of course they didn't.
First of all they noted the current position that:
"... dwellings which have remained empty and unfurnished for over 2 years are charged a premium of 100% - i.e. the property owner is charged 200% of (double) the normal
Council Tax charge..'
The report did not say how many properties Fylde has that fall within this classification.
They Decided to recommend to the Council that from this coming April.....
'1. With effect from 1st April 2020 a premium of 200% would be charged against properties empty for more than five years,'
Fylde thinks they have around 50 properties here that have remained unoccupied for over 5 years.
'2. And with effect from 1st April 2021 a premium of 300% would be charged against properties empty for more than ten years.'
Fylde thinks there are around 20 properties here that have remained unoccupied for over 10 years.
So readers with empty and unfurnished property here in Fylde should be warned.
You're currently paying double council tax because it is empty.
From this coming April that will go up to treble council tax if it has been empty and unfurnished for five years or more
And from April next year, it will become quadruple council tax once the property has been empty and unfurnished for more than 10 years.
The report's lily-livered attempt to justify Fylde's decision to punish this part of its property owning democracy by continuing to apply the highest available Premium Charge
- was to try and shift the blame onto Fylde's new (but in our view, useless) Local Plan - part of which says:
'....the Council will identify and bring back into use empty housing and building in line with local housing and empty homes strategies and, where appropriate, acquire
properties under compulsory purchase powers....'
Fylde has already calculated that if these 'multiplier' measures are agreed at full Council then, at today's (Band 'D') council tax rate, they will generate between £10,000
and £14,000 a year extra.
Co-incidentally that (£10,000 a year) is also about the same sum that the wholly unnecessary 'Leader of the Council' role gets paid as a special allowance - on top of the
normal allowance paid to them for being a councillor.
SO WHAT HAPPENED IN THE DEBATE?
Was there a lot of heated argument? Did debate pass back and forth? Were any amendments proposed?
In short, the answer is 'No.'
An officer introduced the report and, we have to say, he covered the issue well. No one who was listening could fail to have understood what they were about to vote on. He
spent about 4 minutes making his report; asking if there were any questions as he finished.
There were none.
One Councillor indicated to speak, and the Chairman asked if he had a question.
He said not, adding....
"I think it's a damn fine good idea"
It was then proposed and seconded for acceptance.
By this point about another minute has passed, and the Chairman asked the officer if he would please explain more about the definition of an empty property. In reply, the
"The Premium Charge that is in place now that the Government allows local authorities to impose the additional premium charge, that is in respect of unoccupied and
unfurnished properties only.
If the property is furnished, then for Council Tax purposes, that's classed as a 'second home' and we're not allowed to impose the premium charge. It has to be both
unoccupied and unfurnished"
At just over 8 minutes into this item, another officer read out the wording of the proposition, and before 9 minutes had elapsed, the vote had been taken and decided.
So inside ten minutes it was all over.
But, because it is technically a 'budget decision' it is a decision that must actually be taken by the full council. So this Committee's decision will now go there as a
For those affected, (or soon to be affected), by these changes, we offer the following by way of clarification.
This section of our article is not intended to be, nor is it, a substitute for professional legal advice about anyone's particular circumstances.
However, it might help affected readers decide whether they need such professional advice.
A ‘second home’ is a property which is not the ‘sole or main residence’ of any individual for council tax purposes. This may include a ‘holiday home’.
It may also include a property which the owner does regularly occupy, but has another property which is defined as their ‘sole or main residence’.
It is for the billing/levying authority (that's a district or unitary council in England) to decide (in the first instance) whether a property is anyone’s ‘sole or main
residence’ and there is substantial case law on this matter.
Unoccupied and Substantially Unfurnished
There is no statutory definition of the term ‘unoccupied AND substantially unfurnished’.
The use of capital letters above is our own choice.
We've used them to highlight the point that if a property is EITHER 'Unoccupied' OR it is 'substantially unfurnished' then, according to the advice given by the Council
officer, it does not meet the criteria under which a Premium Charge may be imposed.
Again, it is for the council to decide whether a property meets this definition, and there is substantial case law in existence.
That said, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) provided some guidance on this very point in 2014, saying:
'A property which is substantially unfurnished is unlikely to be occupied or be capable of occupation.
A property which is capable of occupation can reasonably be expected to contain some, if not all, items from both of the following categories: furniture such as bed, chairs,
table, wardrobe or sofa, and white goods such as fridge, freezer or cooker.
Where a property is said to be occupied it will be reasonable for the local authority to cross-check with the electoral roll, or ask for evidence, such as utility bills
showing usage of services, driving licence as proof of address, or receipts or other proof of moving costs."
Residents who disagree with the billing authority regarding whether a property is ‘unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’ may take their case to the Valuation Tribunal.
We can see the Valuations office and - perhaps, more importantly - second-hand furniture dealers - looking forward to the prospect of something of a boom after April.
Calculating The 'Empty' Period For Premium Charging
This is a bit surprising and might catch the unwary.
Liability for the empty homes premium is determined by the length of time that the property has been empty. Someone who buys a property which has already been empty for two
years in England (or one year in Scotland or Wales) may be required to pay the premium as soon as they take ownership.
An MP formally asked the Minster why the empty home premium starts when a property first becomes empty rather than when a property is bought with the intention of
renovating and occupying it.
The Minister replied
'The empty homes premium aims to reduce the total length of time for which properties are empty, not the length of time for which they are empty under a particular owner.
Since the power came into effect on 1 April 2013, 239 councils in England have introduced the empty homes premium. The number of long-term empty homes fell by 38,009 between
October 2012 and October 2013.'
He didn't say whether that reduction was because they were now occupied by people, or by the minimum amount of furniture necessary to avoid paying the Premium charge.
Exemption: Marketing For Sale Or Rent
In Wales and Scotland, properties which are being marketed for sale or rent are exempt from empty homes premium if the property has been empty for less than two years. This
amounts to one year’s additional grace before the premium applies to such properties. But in England, no such requirement was introduced. However, guidance for English
councils, published in May 2013, said:
'The government’s intention behind the decision to provide billing authorities with the power to charge a premium was not to penalise owners of property that is genuinely on
the housing market for sale or rent.
The government expects billing authorities to consider the reasons why properties are unoccupied and unfurnished, including whether they are available for sale or rent, and
decide whether they want such properties to be included in their determination.'
Good luck with that if you hope to persuade your council to look favourably on your case.
Premium Exemptions For The Military And For Annexes
The empty homes premium cannot apply to homes that are empty due to the occupant living in armed forces accommodation for job-related purposes, or to annexes being used as
part of a main property.
A FEW QUIRKS OF SOME COUNCIL TAX REGULATIONS....
If a Council Gives a Discount
Where a council gives discounts for specific lengths of time, they are also entitled to do this according to how long the property has been empty, without taking account of
a change of ownership.
Thus a new owner of a property might find that their predecessor has ‘used up’ all the discount period which that council granted, and a new discount period cannot begin until the property
has been occupied for a period of more than six weeks.
Liability For The Empty Homes Premium
Like the 'discount' choice above, the empty homes premium is decided by the length of time that the property has been empty, not who owns it,
So someone who buys a property
in England that has already been empty for two years may be required to pay the premium as soon as they take ownership.
Single People Vacating A Property
A single person who moves out of a property they own, leaving it furnished but empty, may find that their council tax bill rises. This is because once their property is
empty it does not attract a single-person discount, so, instead of 75% of the standard liability as a single person, they may end up paying up to 100% of Council Tax.
If the owner of such a property lets the property out, the tenant(s) normally become liable for council tax.
Landlords may find that they are liable for council tax on their properties for the period between one tenant leaving and another arriving.
(Prior to 2013, a six-month exemption would have applied from the date on which the property became empty: thus landlords would only have become liable on properties that
had been empty for over six months).
Individuals buying a property which they then spend several months repairing or rebuilding, which they cannot or do not live in whilst the work is ongoing, may be liable for
the full council tax payment throughout the period of repair.
The law now calls this 'Job Related Accommodation'
A 50% discount continues to be available to individuals who live in ‘job-related dwellings’ but who are liable for council tax on another property.
The discount is available on their original property, which an individual has had to leave empty to live in the job-related dwelling.
A ‘job-related dwelling’ is defined in the legislation as one which is:
'...provided for him by reason of his employment or for his spouse [or civil partner by reason of that person’s] employment, in any of the following cases –
- (a) where it is necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the employment that the employee should reside in that dwelling;
- (b) where the dwelling is provided for the better performance of the duties of the employment, and it is one of the kinds of employment in the case of which it is customary for employers to provide dwellings to employees;
- (c) where, there being a special threat to the employee’s security, special security arrangements are in force and the employee resides in the dwelling as part of those arrangements.'
Needless to say, a significant body of case law also exists on this matter.
However, generally, the definition relates to instances where the council tax-payer is required to live in the job-related dwelling. It is not likely to apply where an
individual has chosen to live in two places (for instance, a main home and a flat occupied for a job elsewhere). It is also unlikely to apply where an individual has been
living elsewhere for a long period but retains their original property for their use in the meantime.
Ministers of Religion
Ministers of religion and members of service personnel, who have a second home in England but who live in a job-related dwelling in England, Scotland or Wales, can obtain a
50% discount on that second home.
That last example puts us in mind of a classic British eccentric who bred and was obsessed with budgerigars. He declared himself to be the leader of a religious sect devoted to
the worship of budgies, and tried to claim 50% discount on his Council Tax as a Minister of a religion. (Don't you just love the ingenuity here!)
Eventually went to a court or tribunal, but sadly, he did not win his case.
The Council Tax system also provides statutory exemptions for properties left empty for a specific purpose – for example, when a person goes into care.
Councils also have powers to apply discounts in cases where homes are empty due to special circumstances – for example, hardship, fire or flooding.
SO WHAT WILL FYLDE'S COUNCIL MEETING DECIDE?
At its February (or, more likely) March meeting, Fylde council will consider the recommendation from its Environment, Health and Housing Committee to impose the maximum
charge it is allowed to make for house owners who have empty property for long periods.
What will they decide?
Well, it might be the case that both the Government and Fylde (and councils elsewhere) have seen this as a useful opportunity to screw more money out of local people without appearing
to raise the council tax (which might subject them to a local capping referendum), and where they can disguise their real intention under a Tolkienesque mithril cloak of housing need.
Alternatively, they might all have swallowed the story, and actually believe that it is perfectly correct for a Council to 'encourage' those who own empty property to bring it back into use
for other people to live in.
Will those with two cars have to pay multiple tax levels for the second car if it isn't used enough - so people who
don't have a car can buy it?
And whilst (at least not yet) the authorities cannot charge us a tax for using a freezer, the underlying logic they are employing here is just a stupid as saying that
someone who owns two freezers (or two computers for that matter), but uses one of them infrequently, should be penalised to 'encourage' them to get rid of the second one
so someone else can have it.
The theory underpinning this Premium charge, is not logic, it is stupidity.
Yes of course we're being silly with our freezer example here, but the comedy of our proposition is intended to demonstrate the fallacy that people should NOT be punished for
owning two of something if they don't use both of them simultaneously.
We'll leave our readers to make up their mind as to what the underlying reasons for this interfering nanny-state intervention might be......
And we'll return to what Fylde is likely to decide at the future Council meeting.
That meeting could vote to change what the Committee recommended of course, but it's a pound to a penny that won't happen.
Nor will they offer any of the discounts that used to apply to empty property which doesn't require the same level of Council services as a fully occupied property.
So it looks to us as though, at the full Council meeting, the Conservative Councillors will stick with the maximum that the Conservative Government has allowed them to
charge, and the punitive charges we have outlined above will be on their way to an empty property near you from April.
Mind you, anyone owning a property that has been empty for a long period (and who had read this article) will soon see that quite possibly, this (in our view poorly thought
out) legislation already contains the seeds of its own destruction.
Faced with having to pay multiples of the standard council tax charge for an unoccupied AND unfurnished property, folk will likely start putting enough items of furniture in
it so it becomes *unoccupied but furnished*, leading to it becoming classed as a second home (as the nice man told the Environment Health and Housing Committee). And that being
the case, the penal multiplier 'Premium Charge' will not be applicable - as he said.
Until the law changes again of course.
The increasing use of workaround options such as this might be why we saw a 'strong-arm' warning from the council of the London Borough of Merton who published this....
'The Theft Act 1968 also applies to Council Tax where a person presents information which they know to be false with a view to obtaining a financial benefit to which they
are not entitled. You could be subject to prosecution for obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.'
Before we start the conclusions, we would like to make it clear that we do not have a second home of any description, whether empty or not.
But we fundamentally disagree with the principles underlying this Premium Charge.
It is no business of Government to attempt to regulate the scale and extent of any sort of property that anyone can lawfully own, whether they use it or not.
And it is most definitely wrong to link penalties for what Government might consider 'excessive ownership of property' to sums we have to pay as taxation.
Yet in the 2017 budget, the then Chancellor said
"I want to address the issue of empty properties. It cannot be right to leave property empty when so many are desperate for a place to live, so we will legislate to give
local authorities the power to charge a 100% council tax premium on empty properties."
We simply cannot agree with him.
In the House of Lords debate, Baroness Pinnock said the aim was to:
'....increase the financial incentive to owners who have empty properties to encourage those same owners to take action so that their empty property can be brought back into
use. This financial incentive can, of course, also be seen as a financial penalty. The purpose is clear: to ensure that the many thousands of long-term empty homes become homes
for families once more.'
And for the Government, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth said:
'.... as homes are remaining empty for longer and longer, the logic of that is obvious: the figure goes up after five years and after 10 years. In addition, empty properties
can be a nuisance to local residents, and potentially sites of crime or squatting. I share the concern about the need for robust measures to tackle what may become, and often
are, blots on the landscape, to the benefit of those seeking a place to live as well as of local communities as a whole. I think we all understand that.'
There is a phrase we want to use about what he said here, but we would probably end up in court if we printed it here, so we won't.
Readers of like mind can insert their own expletives.
We return to the beginning of our article.
There was always a direct link between what was demanded of us in 'council tax' and what services the local authority provided for everyone with the tax it raised.
That link has not only been broken, the concept on which it was founded has been abandoned.
Furthermore, the generations of Conservative-led administrations who supported and expanded the scale and scope of Britain as a property owning democracy must be turning in
From Thatcher to Osborne (who is still with us of course), the underlying aim has been to do everything possible to encourage home ownership.
Historically, the cornerstone - the fundamental belief system of Conservatives - has been predicated on self-reliance, liberty, personal responsibility, personal property and
But not any more, it seems.
The transition we now see taking place both nationally - and locally by Fylde's Conservatives - is moving ever closer to the logic that believes 'all property is theft'
And last time we looked, that concept was more usually quoted by - and associated with - anarchists, Marxists and Trotskyites than Conservatives.
How times change
Dated: 28 January 2020