Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a report (copy attached) to seek a decision on an increase to the current Premium rates on properties in Denbighshire.



Councillor Eryl Williams declared a personal interest as he owns a self-catering holiday cottage.



Councillor Gwyneth Ellis, Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets introduced the report to seek a decision from members on an increase to the current Premium rates on these properties in Denbighshire. The proposal was presented at Cabinet Briefing on 3 July and to Cabinet on 8th July 2023, who supported the recommendations which had resulted in this report to full council for a decision. 


The Authority had worked proactively to raise awareness of the consultation resulting in 2,142 page views (37 Welsh) on the Council’s page that promoted the consultation to the general public, with 898 visits directly to the consultation survey. 175 customers completed and submitted a response.  71 responses out of 175 were received from the second home owners or long term empty home owner group, and 17 from second home owners that live or work in Denbighshire.


On legal advice, a communication exercise had undertaken to make over 1,000 second home and long term empty home owners aware of the consultation.  The council were conscious that proactively engaging this group could have had a disproportionate impact on the results of the consultation, and so noted the importance of identifying these groups of customers.


The recommendations made by officers had tried to strike a balance to consider how to effectively administer the scheme, whilst considering the regional context and wider legislative factors.


During discussions, the following points were raised –

(a)  What measures could be put in place to show the success or not of the Policy? It was confirmed that the numbers were within the report showing how the Policy would illustrate success.  Businesses run with higher occupancy rates were a good thing for the area as they brought in tourists by utilising less houses. 

(b)  Within the report there had been numbers of long term empty and second homes.  There were no numbers showing how many holiday lets may fall foul of the 182 day limit.  Could more information be available?  The Valuation Office would need to take the decisions as to whether a building was able to go on to business rates. 

(c)  The Wellbeing Impact Assessment (WBIA), had not shown information on specifically impacted groups.  There seemed to be particular groups who felt dissatisfied by the Policy and would be useful to receive more information regarding those, following which the impact as a whole, could be assessed.  It was confirmed the information requested could be included.

(d)  The over-arching aim was to increase affordable housing, and reduce homelessness which was rising in the area.  It would be difficult to separate the number of second homes directly.  There was a management pack which was monitored monthly showing the figures but would be difficult to translate the information for homelessness, and affordable housing but it was part of the Corporate Plan which would contain performance indicators.  It was confirmed that a report could be put together to review the figures and show the impact of the Policy which would be presented in 2024. 

(e)  The validity of the consultation or survey was questioned.  175 responses had been received - 88 of which were against the new tax and 87 were in favour. The question was put forward how few responses had been received out of the 96,000 residents which made it difficult to accept the conclusion that Denbighshire residents thought there was a need to increase the Council Tax by 150%.  Also it was raised that the recommendation revolved around empty homes rather than holiday homes. 

The Lead Member and Officers agreed it would be advantageous if more residents responded to the consultation and survey but, unfortunately that had not been the case.  There were methodologies behind the responses and therefore no reason not to go ahead with the Policy.  Following taking legal advice the council had written out to over 1000 customers who would be impacted directly by this Policy.  A full comms strategy was undertaken around the consultation, which included press releases, websites, internal communication to staff to increase awareness, and notices placed in libraries to ensure people in the communities were aware.

(f)   There would be an impact on the current revenues and benefits staff resources to implement this Policy.  The only additional cost would be a new post which would be funded by the council for the first year but could be funded from funding going forward. The new post would be to support communities by making sure they maximised what they were entitled to.  This was a good way of using some of the finances raised to support the communities in a proactive way.

(g)  The money raised by the Policy would be utilised to support homelessness within the county.  The Head of Finance confirmed that Council Tax could not be ringfenced.  Over the last 2 years over £3million had been invested in the homelessness service.  Homelessness was a key part of the corporate priorities within the Corporate Plan.  Much more money was being spent in this area than the Policy would raise.

(h)  Ruthin had not been included within the data in the report due to Ruthin not being in the top 5 parishes most impacted, but that information could be provided by each parish for members’ attention.

(i)    Long term empty homes figures had increased in the past 5 years.  There was one Empty Homes Officers whose role was to bring empty homes back in to use.  An annual survey was carried out for homes which were empty for 6 months or longer.  Figures of the amount of empty homes brought back into use were provided and confirmed work was taking place with the owners of the empty properties to assist in bringing them back to use.   A summary of the work involved with empty homes was relayed to members. 

(j)    It was queried why empty homes and second homes had been linked together within the report and questioned whether these should be 2 separate entities. 


Councillor Terry Mendies PROPOSED that the item be deferred.  There being no seconder, the proposal was not taken forward to a vote.


Councillor Merfyn Parry PROPOSED an amendment to the report to include an additional recommendation that if this proposal is agreed that the extra funding generated by this proposal is allocated for local communities, amenities and to tackle homelessness. 


SECONDED by Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts.


The Monitoring Officer explained that a vote would take place on the amendment to the recommendation and if the vote was defeated it would go back to the original recommendation but if the vote was approved then that becomes the substantive motion for which any subsequent vote would be taken unless there were any further amendments. 


A vote on the amendment took place and the results were as follows –

For the amendment – 35

Abstain – 2

Against the amendment – 3


The amendment was carried and therefore became the substantive motion.


At this juncture Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts asked for clarification regarding putting the second homes and empty homes together as, in his opinion, it would be beneficial  to separate them. 


Councillor Hilditch-Roberts was informed by the Chair that the debate had concluded and everyone had had an opportunity to speak during the main debate.


The substantive motion was moved by Councillor Gwyneth Ellis and seconded by the Leader, Councillor Jason McLellan.


The Monitoring Officer confirmed that the vote would take place for the recommendation in the report together with the additional paragraph agreed as the amendment.



For – 35

Abstain – 2

Against – 3



(i)     members reviewed the paper and supporting information being presented particularly the feedback from the public consultation and advise how they would like officers to proceed.  Officers proposals are set out in 3.2 to 3.4. Officers have recommended a measured response to any increase to allow a learn and evaluate approach. While Welsh government have given powers for an increase of up to 300% we are proposing the following:

(ii)    there is parity between the standard second home and long term empty premium, to minimise avoidance by taxpayers (who may apply to switch to the more favourable category) and so ensure the administrative burden is not increased significantly, except for properties that fall within recommendation 3.4.

(iii)   second home and long term empty premium charge will remain at 50% for April 2023 then increases to 100% from April 2024, then 150% from April 2025.

(iv)   properties that have been unoccupied and unfurnished for 5 years or more pay a higher premium at 50% more than the standard premium.  This would make the total premium 150% above the standard charge from 1st April 2024, and 200%above the standard charge from 2025.

(v)        It is important to note that:-

a) Properties that meet the Welsh Government criteria to be classed as a business (holiday lets) do not pay Council Tax and would not be impacted by the proposals (please see Appendix B section 1.2)

b) There are several exemptions available which help those with, for example, properties marketed for sale, properties marketed to let, properties where occupancy is restricted by a planning condition to non-residential, seasonal or holiday let use only (please see Appendix A page 1) 

c) There is a process in place for DCC to consider a discretionary discount where for example there is significant financial hardship to the business or individual or an exceptional circumstance has occurred and it would be reasonable to support by way of reducing the Council Tax.

(vi)       the extra funding generated by this proposal is allocated for local communities, amenities and to tackle homelessness. 


Supporting documents: