Monday, 16 May 2011

Letter to Grant Shapps - Housing Minister

Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU

10 May 2011

Dear Grant

I write to you briefly asking for Treasury relief to Council’s with large numbers of empty properties. Currently Council’s with large numbers of empty long term voids face a disincentive and are therefore reluctant to remove the empty homes discount on long term voids due to Treasury calculations.

As you may be aware my Council, Hyndburn has historically around 2,200 empties, some 1,300 long term. It provides a 50% discount on long term voids. Some 171 Council’s have now removed the 50% Council tax discount on empty houses. However this discount recalculates the Council Tax Base but any increased Council Tax is lost in Treasury recalculations of the rate support grant of the new CTB.

It is important we incentivise home ownership and regeneration and evidence suggests that the removal of the discount results in some 12% fall in the number of long term voids.

Hyndburn Council cannot easily remove the 50% discount because it has some 100 homes itself it is trying to regenerate and bring back in to use, largely in HMR areas. These properties potentially would result in extra Council Tax payments of some £50,000 to the Treasury along with some £600,000 from the remaining 1,200 properties if the 50% discount where removed.

It is wrong that Council’s trying to regenerate homes for people to live in should lose out and I would urge you to consider the Treasury looking into what is a small but significant correction.

Secondly I think it is the Governments interest to allow councils like Hyndburn to keep all the money from all long term voids. In Hyndburn’s case this is not money lost to the Treasury. A genuinbe case exists where there is low demand and a need to regenerate that Council’s who will never receive significant New Homes Bonus’s otherwise (Hyndburn received a paltry £63,000) that the ministry facilitates a ‘top up’ by allowing the tax raised from removal of this perverse 50% discount to be kept locally to allow for further regeneration.

I look forward to your response.

Regards, Graham Jones