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Harrow's Conservative group supports Harrow Borough Council's plan to change council tax discount rules
Harrow’s Conservative group has spoken out in support of Harrow Borough Council’s plan to ensure that people with empty properties and second homes lose their right to council tax discounts.
The changes, which were agreed on Monday, are part of the authority’s reforms to council tax.
Shadow portfolio holder for finance, Councillor Tony Ferrari said: “These welcome changes have come about thanks to the Conservative-led Government, and we were happy to support them at the last council meeting.
“They are a sensible way for the council to increase income, and will also keep the property market moving – which is particularly important during challenging financial times.
“However Councillor Shah's assertion that Labour are using this extra income to 'close the gap left by the Government’s cuts to council tax benefits' is entirely wrong, and the pledge he made in November that it would be spent on social service provision has disappeared.
“Labour are actually passing the whole cost of the council tax benefit reduction on to some of Harrow's most vulnerable residents, and what they plan to do with the money raised through these changes remains unclear.”
The changes will affect residents with second homes, properties that have been empty for more than two years and unoccupied properties undergoing repair or major structural alteration.
Additionally, owners of properties that have been empty for more than two years will be charged an additional levy of 50 per cent leading to a council tax bill of 150 per cent.
The changes will be introduced from April 1.
There are currently 248 households in Harrow with second homes and removing their council tax exemptions will raise £37,000.
There are 500 properties that have been empty for more than two years and they will now pay an extra £621,000 in council tax.
There are also 176 empty properties that are awaiting repair and they will raise £290,000.
The additional council tax revenue generated as a result of the changes will be used to pay for services such as meals on wheels and other services for the vulnerable and elderly.
Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for finance, Councillor Sachin Shah, said: “In tough times it is only right that those with the broadest shoulders pay the biggest burden.
“This council protects and supports the borough’s most financially vulnerable residents and we are doing everything in our power to shield them from government cuts.
“That’s why it’s right that we no longer give people a subsidy, paid for by other taxpayers, to have a second home.
“We will use the extra money raised to continue to support those who are most in need and close the gap left by the government’s cuts to council tax benefits.
“By charging 150 per cent council tax on long-term empty homes, it will encourage landlords to bring their property back in to use.
“Long term empty properties often bring with them crime with boarded up windows and over grown gardens. It’s about time we acted to stop this.”