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Wiltshire Council could lose £3.5m from budget
10:00pm Thursday 18th October 2012 in News
Wiltshire Council is to lose up to £3.5 million from its budget after the Government announced plans for a 10 per cent cut in council tax relief.
Wiltshire Council spends around £27m annually on council tax benefit and this is currently funded in full by a central government grant.
It is expected that the council will lose between £2.7m and £3.5m in funding because of the planned reduction, with the figure due to be confirmed in December.
To combat this shortfall, Lib Dems in Wiltshire have called on the council to stop giving tax relief to people with second homes and empty properties.
Wiltshire councillor and Lib Dem leader Jon Hubbard said: “If the Conservative administration fails to end tax relief for the very wealthy, it will be the poor and vulnerable who will feel the effects.”
He called for the council to use new powers given by the Government that allow it to charge 150 per cent tax on empty homes in the region.
He claimed this could raise £307,000 within two years.
He said: “With a nationwide housing shortage, we should be doing everything we can to encourage owners to rent or sell their homes.”
Wiltshire Council has set up a consultation to explain the changes, which will start in April 2013, when the Government will stop the national council tax benefit scheme.
Wiltshire councillor John Thomson, cabinet member for housing, who represents the Conservatives, said: “We are currently consulting on the many options available to us to help make up this shortfall.
“I would encourage everyone to complete the survey at www.wiltshire.gov.uk/council taxsupportscheme or request a copy by calling 0300 456 0100.
“The Government is also consulting on the impact these changes could have, so we await the outcome of that with interest. “It is important that the definition of an empty home is correct, as we do not want to see people charged unjustly – especially as this could affect those in the military.”
The public consultation on the proposed council tax changes in Wiltshire is open until Tuesday, October 30.