COMMUNITIES secretary Eric Pickles is expected to this morning outline plans to cut council tax bills by closing a loophole that allows second-home owners to avoid up to 50 per cent of their bills on empty properties.
Pickles hopes to knock around £20 from the average bill by clamping down on uninhabited homes, which are increasingly unpopular as the housing shortage worsens.
He said: “Under Labour, council tax went through the roof. This government has scrapped Labour’s council tax revaluation and is helping freeze council tax for two years.
“I want to do more to help everyday families with their cost of living, and protect family homes from tax increases.
“By removing the subsidised tax breaks for empty homes and second homes, we can cut £20 a year off families’ council tax bills by treating everyone equally and fairly.”
The average council tax bill for a mid-level property is £1,196. It is understood almost 250,000 properties are currently classed as second homes.
Pickles said special cases will still be able to claim discounts, for example if the occupant has been forced to move into sheltered accommodation or spend long periods in hospital.
He also said he will encourage councils to offer discounts to households who pay their bills online.
Rules on so-called “granny flats,” whereby households putting up a relative in an annex of their property can be charged twice for their council tax, will also be put up for consultation.
It is thought the measures make the possibility of a “mansion tax,” part of the Lib Dem’s pre-election wish-list, less likely.