ELLESMERE Port Labour councillors have branded a Council Tax discount on empty properties as “disgusting”.
Cllrs Derek Bateman and Pat Merrick, said the Tories who run the Cheshire West and Chester Council, which comes into being on April 1 next year, missed the chance to earn an extra £500,000 by failing to follow Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council’s example of allowing zero discounts on properties that have been empty for more than six months.
Cllr Bateman, Labour group leader on the new council, said they did this despite receiving a report that not only “clearly stated the financial benefit” of such a decision but showed that when the borough council removed the discount completely in April 2007 the number of long-term empty properties had reduced by a fifth.
His deputy, Cllr Merrick, urged the Tory Executive members to reconsider their decision to allow the owners of such properties a 25% discount.
She said: “The 1,500 long-term empty properties across West Cheshire, which represents a full 1% of all properties in the new authority, is immoral.
“I am concerned for the 9,000 or so families in our area that are currently on the waiting lists for homes to rent. It must be heart-breaking for them to see perfectly good homes lying empty.
“To give the owners of such properties a council tax discount is indefensible. These homes could be rented out or, dare I say, sold at an affordable price.”
Cllr Bateman added after the meeting: “There was clear evidence in the report that a policy of no discount brought houses back into the rental or purchase market quickly.
“This is what is needed to stimulate the housing market.”