By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter
Holiday home owners in the Newtown area face a hefty 25% rise in council tax next year.
Powys County Councillors agreed at their meeting on Thursday to raise the council tax premium to 75% above the normal rate.
But, it could have been worse for holiday/second home owners, as a Labour amendment to take the premium up to 100%, doubling the bill, was voted down.
The original motion to take the premium up to 75% was tabled by Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan as it could increase Powys County Council’s council tax by £350,000.
At the moment, a 50% premium, that affects 1,262 holiday/second homes and contributes around £700,000 to the council coffers, is in place.
Cllr Sarah Williams said: “We support the motion and want to take it further to 100%. People who can afford second homes are people who can afford these premiums.
“If they don’t, all well and good, our younger people are able to buy properties in the area. A lot of these people are using loopholes to avoid paying council tax.”
Cllrs Claire Mills and Lucy Roberts argued that holiday and second home owners contribute to the local community by buying local, visiting pubs and restaurants during their stay.
Cllr Aled Davies said: “Currently these home owners are paying 150% council tax, some of these owners do become part of the community. An increase in premium may cause some owners to consider other premium avoidance options and could create a risk to the future collection.
“It will be a driver for people to register for business rates rather than council tax, our income as a council could fall significantly.”
Cllr Davies went on to criticise Cllr Vaughan for using council debates as a “platform” for furthering his own political career. Cllr Vaughan hopes to stand as a Plaid Cymru candidate on the Mid and West Wales regional list at next year’s Welsh Parliament elections.
Cllr Davies also attacked the Plaid Cymru record at local authorities where they are the ruling administration such as Ceredigion and Ynys Môn.
He pointed out that premiums paid on holiday/second homes there are half those charged in Powys, and also complained that Labour run councils in South Wales don’t charge the premium.
“Punitive taxation is not the solution when addressing local housing need,” said Cllr Davies.
Adults Social Services portfolio holder, Cllr Myfanwy Alexander believed holiday/second homes affects the Welsh language in a negative way.
Cllr Alexander said: “All of our rural communities are vulnerable and fragile, all of our young people struggle to get their foot on the ladder.
“There is collateral damage when young Welsh speaking people can no longer afford to live in places where it is a community language.”
She added that she knew of cases in her ward where people had failed to find a house and had ended up living over the border in England.
Cllr Alexander also pointed out that in parts of Wales, some villages were effectively turning into ghost towns in the winter, due to the amount of holiday homes there.
Head of Legal Service, Clive Pinney, reminded councillors that it would be “best practice” to hold a consultation on the changes and equality impact assessments would need to be made, before the decision comes into force.
Before the final vote Cllr Vaughan, said: “I must take issue with the comments a couple of people made, that somehow thinking that people in holiday homes for four weeks a year spend a fortune in the local community.”
“Common sense says that a family occupying a house for 52 weeks a year, spending money in the shops, garages, cafes and pubs, is substantially more.
“Let’s get to planet earth and reality and stand up for young people and our communities.”
The amendment for 100% was lost by 21 votes for to 30 against and one abstention.
The second vote on Cllr Vaughan’s motion was passed by 33 votes for, 17 against and one abstention.