Council tax discounts slashed; Cheshire tries to reduce the number of second homes.
COUNCIL tax discounts on second homes are to be slashed in Cheshire in a bid to provide more police community support officers in the county.
Councillors across the county have agreed to roll out a scheme which was trialled in Ellesmere Port and Neston last year.
Now final talks are taking place on how exactly to spend the money.
Currently, people who own more than one property, or who own a property which is empty for a long period of time, can apply for council tax discounts of up to 50%.
But government legislation passed in 2003 handed local councils the power to reduce that discount to just 10%.
Ministers hoped the scheme would be picked up by councils and used to help reduce the number of homes left empty for long periods of time, including holiday homes in rural areas.
In Ellesmere Port and Neston, reducing the discount to the minimum 10% resulted in the district and county councils - facing pressure from government to keep council tax rises below 5% - collecting an extra pounds 97,000.
That money was split between the two councils, the fire authority and police authority, with Cheshire County Council receiving around 70%. Now second home discounts are to be reduced in other areas of Cheshire, although most will fall to a 25% discount.
It is believed around pounds 350,000 will be raised in this way for the councils.
Officers from Cheshire County Council and the district councils are now working out how to divide the extra money up.
The county council's favoured plan is to divide half of the money between the councils, and giving the other half to the county's Safer and Stronger Communities Fund.
A report presented to Cheshire County Council's executive last week stated: "Agreement has been reached that the districts will levy the additional tax.
"Our proposal is for 50% of the increased council tax to be allocated in accordance with the normal entitlement to council tax receipts, so the county council would receive around 70% of this or about pounds 125,000.
"Each individual authority would have complete discretion over how their share of this money is used.
"The remaining 50% would be held for shared priorities such as going to fund Community Safety Officers in line with wishes of the police and district councils.
"Such an approach would generate additional resources for community safety which is recognised as a key corporate priority for both the County council and the districts.
"Cheshire County Council's proposal for the use of the additional revenue has not yet been agreed by all parties involved .
" The exact split between Cheshire County Council, police, fire and the districts and its usage will need further work."
A spokesman for the Empty Home Agencies said councils across the country were using the new powers.
He added: "The council tax discount on empty homes in areas of high demand for housing has acted as an incentive to keep homes empty."
Discount on vacant homes an incentive for empty houses