Council tax rise for second homes in Edinburgh

Second homes will face a council tax rise. Picture; Andrew O'Brien
Second homes will face a council tax rise. Picture; Andrew O'Brien
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COUNCIL tax discounts on second homes in the Capital are to be abolished.

The move will raise more than £350,000 a year extra to help plug the city council’s funding shortfall.

But Greens said they would like to go further and charge owners of second homes up to double the normal council tax, as already happens with houses which are just left empty – while the Tories accused other parties of a “politics of envy”.

Councils can currently charge a maximum of 90 per cent council tax on second homes, so owners of such properties in Edinburgh currently enjoy a ten per cent reduction.

But new legislation allows the full tax to be levied on second homes from April.

And a report to today’s meeting of the city council’s finance and resources committee recommends the discount should be scrapped in order to encourage better use of housing stock and generate additional income for key frontline services.

There are a total of 2321 second homes in Edinburgh and the council tax increase will generate between £351,000 and £362,000 in extra revenue.

Green housing spokesman Steve Burgess said: “In a city with an acute shortage of housing, it does seem a luxury for over 2000 homes to be used only part-time.

“So if the modest rise in the charge prompts a few to bring the property into fuller use, then that is good.

“For those left, at least the extra revenue can help plug a small part of the cut in the council budget by the Scottish Government.

“However, I cannot see why council powers should not be expanded, to charge an even higher council tax on second homes, just as the council now can for long-term empty homes.

“And it also highlights the need to look seriously at the way in which holiday lets, party flats and other short-term lets are edging out homes for people who want to live permanently in the city.”

However, Tory finance spokesman Iain Whyte said: “Some people live between two houses – a lot of people live in Edinburgh and work in London and might have a flat in both.

“It’s a difficult area to get the balance right, but the natural reaction of some people in other parties is to jump to the highest amount of tax they can possibly get rather than looking at it in a more balanced way.

“Council tax is meant at least in part to reflect the services you are getting as well as being a property tax – and second homes get very little in the way of services and that should be taken into account.

“There is often an approach from the high-tax parties that looks like a politics of envy and hatred of those who can afford to have second homes.”

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said taxing second homes fully would provide vital additional income at a challenging time for local authorities.

He said: “Demand for council services has been increasing year on year but our annual income has not kept pace.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com