Budget 2017: Local authorities will be able to charge a 100% premium on council tax on empty housing

Philip Hammond said it 'cannot be right' to allow houses to sit empty while many struggle to find somewhere to live

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspendent
Wednesday 22 November 2017 14:40 GMT
Budget 2017: Local authorities will be able to charge 100% premium on council tax on empty housing

Local authorities will be able to charge a 100 per cent premium on council tax on empty properties, the Chancellor has announced.

Philip Hammond handed town hall leaders the power to hike taxes on vacant houses and flats, to dissuade property investors from allowing homes to sit empty while many struggle to find somewhere to live.

A number of councils have already urged the Chancellor to scrap the cap on council tax – currently set at 50 per cent - to tackle so-called "buy-to-leave" landlords, an issue which was cast into the spotlight in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mr Hammond also unveiled a further £28m for Kensington and Chelsea Council to cope with the aftermath of the devastating blaze in June, which left 71 dead, hundreds homeless and scores of residents in need of counselling for trauma.

The funding would pay for mental health services, regeneration and a new community space in the West London area, he said.

Speaking during the Budget, Mr Hammond said: “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 per cent council tax premium on empty properties.”

Describing the Grenfell fire as a “terrible tragedy”, the Chancellor made fresh calls for councils to ensure all their high-rise towers were safe after a nationwide probe found hundreds of towers did not meet fire safety regulations.

He said: “All local authorities and housing associations must carry out any identified, necessary safety works as soon as possible. And if any local authority cannot access funding to pay for essential fire safety work, they should contact us immediately.

“I have said before, and I will say again today, we will not allow financial constraints to get in the way of any essential fire safety work.”

Responding, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said a string of councils had been refused funding for fire safety work, including retro-fitting of sprinklers, when they approached the Government.

He said: “The horrors of Grenfell Tower are a reflection of a system which puts profits before people, that fails to listen to working class communities.

“In 2013, the Government received advice in a coroner’s report that sprinklers should be fitted in all high-rise buildings.

“Today, once again, the Government failed to fund the £1 billion investment needed.”

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