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Homeowners to pay tax on empty properties in Lincoln in bid to cut budget deficits

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

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Homeowners in Lincoln will have to pay tax on empty properties as part of plans to help fund budget deficits.

Some discounts could be scrapped when the City of Lincoln Council takes control of council tax benefits next year.

Currently, homes that are unoccupied and undergoing refurbishment receive a 12-month rate exemption.

But, if plans are approved in January, owners will have to pay 75 per cent of the monthly bill from April.

Meanwhile, unoccupied, unfurnished homes will receive a two-month exemption but will then have to pay the full charge.

Homeowners with properties which remain empty for more than two years will be charged 150 per cent of the council tax. It is hoped this move will also encourage owners to bring unoccupied properties back into use.

The changes come after central Government made council tax benefit a local authority responsibility – but on a 10 per cent smaller budget.

Around £7.9 million of council tax benefit is paid out every year in Lincoln.

The changes are part of wider welfare reforms.

Council bosses say they want to run a "no-change scheme", which means people in receipt of council tax benefit should not see their cash cut.

Councillor Ric Metcalfe, leader of the council said: "These national changes will have serious consequence for the poorest people in the city.

"The measures are callous, unfair and ill-conceived.

"The burden of the Government's austerity measures are falling on the poorest rather than the rich.

"The way to reduce the overall costs of benefits is to get some investment going, to get people back to work, and restore Government income thereby increasing tax revenues.

"Being punitive towards people receiving benefit is not going to create more jobs."

Another planned change is the introduction of a so-called "bedroom tax" for social housing. The charge is calculated based on the number of spare bedrooms in a house, and Mr Metcalfe believes it could leave Lincoln residents up to £15 per week out of pocket.

In addition, total household benefit claims will be capped at £26,000. It is estimated 40 households in Lincoln will be affected by this.

But there will also be limited money available for discretionary housing payments, where the council will be able to contribute to living costs in some cases.

Martin Walmsley, head of shared resources and benefits at the council, said: "We want to try and help the most deserving people.

"For example, if somebody lives in a one-bedroom place now but is three months away from having a baby and wants to move to a bigger property, we will look to meet those extra housing costs for the three months. We are actively contacting customers explaining all these changes.

"We have got officers going round talking to people and we have also got a dedicated advice team.

"People are not going to like much of this but what we don't want is for people not to know about it."

Residents in North Kesteven will only be able to claim up to 75 per cent of their council tax in benefits, although pensioners, carers, the disabled and war pensioners will be protected and will still receive 100 per cent benefits.

Meanwhile, in West Lindsey, everybody will be asked to pay at least 10 per cent of their council tax bill, but, again, pensioners, disabled residents, carers and those receiving war pensions are protected. WLDC will also be increasing non-dependent deductions and altering exemptions and discounts on unused properties.

Visit www.lincoln.gov.uk/welfarereform or call 01522 873355.

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  • bill2b  |  December 17 2012, 9:36PM

    I was caught in this trap with my house in Grantham in 1992. I worked 70 miles away and even commuted for 18 months eventually decided to sell, I would have gladly given the house away as it sat empty for a whole year and was burgled twice (Bright burglars though as it was empty) Eventually I sold it for less than I paid for it 6 years earlier. I resented paying council tax on it because I was not using any of the facilities, Lights (Who cares) Library (no) Fire service (Let it burn its insured) Police (LOL One of the times it was burgled I called them up and then drove 25 miles back to the house and still ended up gaving to call the police again to ask where they were) IMHO Its another money cow for the government

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  • Pete67  |  December 17 2012, 6:16PM

    screenman - While I'll agree that some people ask too much the vast majority do not. In fact a lot have to sell just to make ends meet, and will even sell at a loss under the current financial climate.

  • screenman  |  December 17 2012, 1:39PM

    Pete67, there is always the money for the correct price property, trouble is some people are asking too much.

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  • Pete67  |  December 17 2012, 11:40AM

    Sounds a bit like the old removing the roof times. It worked then why not now, and just have lots of old ruins about? As for people charging too much as screenman says couldn't it just be that people either have no money or the banks won't give out mortgages?

  • Pete67  |  December 17 2012, 11:39AM

    Sounds a bit like the old removing the roof times. It worked then why not now, and just have lots of old ruins about? As for people charging too much as screenman says couldn't it just be that people either have no money or the banks won't give out mortgages?

  • Roadscource  |  December 17 2012, 11:20AM

    "The council might be entitled to collect the normal tax on an empty property" But thats to cover bin emptying, hospital care, benefits payments etc. How many of these will be needed by people that arent there? Nil, so empty houses should be Tax Free.

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  • screenman  |  December 17 2012, 8:40AM

    If somebody is taking 2 years to sell their house they are asking too much for it.

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  • SS29252  |  December 17 2012, 12:15AM

    'Homeowners with properties which remain empty for more than two years will be charged 150 per cent of the council tax. It is hoped this move will also encourage owners to bring unoccupied properties back into use.' This will hit people who have been left a property in a will and are trying to sell it. In the current climate it could be on the market for more than two years. Charging 150% of council tax is outrageous. The council might be entitled to collect the normal tax on an empty property, but they should not be allowed to profiteer from it.

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  • Pete_Lincoln  |  December 15 2012, 9:49AM

    A bit of a confused and confusing report from the Echo - it starts talking about taxing empty properties, enters rent-a-quote about serious consequences for the poorest and then discusses benefit changes - some editing required. "In addition, total household benefit claims will be capped at £26,000. It is estimated 40 households in Lincoln will be affected by this." Benefit "cuts"? That's equivalent to just over £30000pa if tax had to be paid. Someone on NMW of £6.19ph on a 40hour week will receive a little over £11000pa before tax. How on earth did we end up in a situation where the hard working earn just one third of those on benefits?

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  • Gnome_Chomsky  |  December 15 2012, 1:34AM

    Not really clear about what NK are saying, unusually for Echo journalism. Is it that NK residents will have to find 25% of council tax from their benefits? That the minimum amount the government thinks a jobseeker needs to live on will, in future, be reduced by the need to pay council tax? And this in addition to the the fact that benefits will rise at below the level of inflation, when travel costs and energy bills rise at well above inflation? I do short-term contract work. I rent the cheapest flat I could find in NK at the time. Housing Benefit does not cover the rent while I am out of work, usually only a few weeks. JSA, at £71/week, is sufficient if my housing and council tax costs are covered. Take away £25/week rent and around £20/week (£85/month) and I am left with £26/week to travel to job interviews, maintain a broadband connection, tax and insure a car (essential for my job), ... Oh, and eat. On at least three occasions, I have been so close to the breadline I have had to seriously consider whether I could afford to accept a job because the first month's costs (travel, accommodation, food) would be on a credit card. Lincoln City seem to be the only council taking the needs of claimants into account.

    |   -3

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