Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting WO to 80360, or email us
Second home owners in Watford to lose council tax perk
People with second homes or empty properties in Watford are set to lose their council tax discounts as part of a local shake-up.
Watford Borough Council’s ruling cabinet agreed the changes as it voted through its first localised system of council tax benefits, which will come into effect from April.
The changes, decided on Monday, come as the council looks to recoup close to £800,000 that the Government has cut from the money it provides the Watford area.
Elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, said the council had decided to protect other groups who received council tax benefits such as pensioners and parents who have adult children living with them.
She also said she hoped removing council tax discounts on empty properties would bring more back into the housing market.
Mayor Thornhill said: "We are not passing it onto people. At the moment we have found a way to absorb it without damaging frontline services.
"In this day and age, having empty properties isn’t good and this may bring some more on line.
"If people can afford a second home they should be able to afford the council tax."
Under the new scheme the 50 per cent council tax discount for second homes is being scrapped.
The 12 month council tax exemption for uninhabitable homes and six month discount for empty properties are also going.
On top of this the council is planning to charge a 50 per cent premium on properties that are empty for more than two years.
Last year councils were told that the old scheme of council tax benefits, which was set nationally, was being scrapped and authorities would be able to draw up their own localised system.
However the move also coincided with councils having the grant they received from the government cut by more than 11 per cent.
Councils were told they could find the lost money from their new council tax regimes or their own budgets.
In a report to Watford Borough Council’s cabinet, officers said the scrapped discounts plus changes to the tax base and a £159,000 transitional grant it is receiving from the Government would plug the deficit this year.
However officers warned the tax scheme would need to be reviewed again next year.