Westminster councillors target empty properties
By londononline | Tuesday, August 20, 2013, 21:05
Labour Councillors in Westminster have asked Westminster Council to work with Camden Council in lobbying the Government to charge increased Council Tax rates to owners of properties which are kept empty for long periods. They want tax to be paid on unoccupied furnished homes without exemption as at present and the minimum period to be reduced from two years to just one year.
Councillor David Boothroyd, Labour's Finance spokesperson, wrote to Westminster's Cabinet Member to Finance, Councillor Melvyn Caplan, in August, saying that the Labour group has been considering how owners of long-term empty properties can be charged. Methods of "evading" the empty property premium range from placing furniture in the properties, claiming that they are second homes.or saying that the property is for sale.
Camden Finance member Theo Blackwell, is asking the Secretary of State (see http://theoblackwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/camden-targets-buy-to-leave-speculators.html) to increase the premium, reduce the minimum period from two years to one year, and remove council tax exemption for unoccupied furnished homes.
David Boothroyd objects to the 'Buy-to-Leave' problem where homes in Westminster are being left empty when people need homes.
The Local Government Finance Act 2012 allowed councils to increase the amount charged to individual council tax payers, who have a second home or empty property within the borough. Camden council justified this targeting of certain types of owners believing that more properties would thus become permanent homes. These change was implemented on 1 April 2013.
Camden Council chose to ignore the fact that many properties, which they saw as second homes, were in fact occupied during by the week or at weekends by people working in London who had family homes elsewhere and whose families have not relocated.
Is is acceptable to accuse second home owners of contributing to the reduction of available properties? There are many reasons why people may need to leave properties empty. Such owners may not be wealthy or have great disposable income. Camden's move has not met with universal approval. It might be popular amongst Labour supporters but will a Conservative Council also support it?