COUNCIL chiefs are to look into issues surrounding a council tax premium on people who own second homes or houses that are unoccupied for periods of time.

Second homes, the housing shortage, council tax and pressures on council incomes were highlighted by Labour's Cllr Lee Jameson, Ribble Valley’s new opposition leader, at a full council meeting

According to government information, people who own a second house usually have to pay council tax on an empty property. But councils can decide to give a discount. Where a home has been empty for two years or more, the owner can be charged an extra amount of council tax, called a premium.

Cllr Jameson, who represents a joint group of Labour, Green and Progressive Liberal councillors, said: “Given that we are currently facing a period of financial uncertainty with growing demand for [council] services and only short-term funding settlements, has the leader considered the options granted to us in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023, of implementing a council tax premium of up to 100 per cent on dwellings that are occupied periodically or second homes?

“This is especially prescient due to the high percentage of second homes in the Ribble Valley

"Should those in the extremely fortunate position of being able to choose to own a second home in the middle of a housing crisis not pay a fairer share?”

In reply, Conservative Cllr Stephen Atkinson, leader of the council, said: “I would like to make three extremely important points on the issue.

“First, not all furnished properties which are periodically unoccupied are second homes. There could be properties where a resident has died, where an empty but furnished property is in the market or where furnished properties are between tenants, for example our own Joiners Arms [a former Clitheroe pub used by the council for temporary accommodation].

“Second. It may be difficult to determine if the property is unoccupied periodically if residents opt to pay the full council tax.

“Third, the council meets the full cost of [council tax] collection but only retains eight percent of the income.

“I will ask officers to prepare a full report on the issue for the budget working group to consider.”