Council tax bills for Rother holiday home owners could be set to double

Council tax bills for Rother holiday home owners could be set to double, if budget proposals gain the go ahead from councillors.
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On Monday (February 5), Rother District Council’s cabinet are set to consider a range of budget proposals for the upcoming 2024/25 financial year, ahead of a full council decision later this month.

Among the budget proposals — including a general council tax increase of 2.99 per cent — are plans to introduce an 100 per cent council tax premium for second homes from 2025/26.

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Alongside this, the council is also considering reducing the time period before an existing 100 per cent premium applies to empty homes. Currently, a property owner can leave a home unoccupied and unfurnished for up to two years before the premium bites; the council is looking at reducing this period to 12 months.

Rother District CouncilRother District Council
Rother District Council

In a report to cabinet, officers say the measures are intended to incentivize empty properties being brought back into use and to revert the use of second homes to primary residences, as well as provide additional council tax income.

The measures come alongside a range of other budget proposals, including increased fees and charges, the use of reserves and further savings from the council’s Fit for the Future programme.

In the report, a council spokesman said: “The council’s financial outlook has significantly deteriorated over the last two years due to economic uncertainty, the cost-of-living crisis, increasing demand-led pressures from areas such as Temporary Accomodation and increasing inflation.

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“Its ability to deliver a balanced budget is now even more dependent on strong financial management and the delivery of the Fit for the Future financial resilience programme. Resources may also need to be reorganised to deliver the priorities and objectives of the new emerging Corporate Plan.

“It is essential, therefore, that the council maintains a suitable level of reserves and continues to operate within the approved budget each financial year to prevent further unplanned calls on reserves.

“Failure to do so will impact on the council’s ability to meet its statutory obligations and will result in members having to make more difficult decisions around the provision of local services.”

The council’s Fit for the Future programme is looking to make total savings of £3.1m. This figure includes efficiency savings, as well as increased income from the council’s investments and fees and charges.

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The increased fees and charges will touch on a wide range of areas, from the cost of renting sports pitches to burial fees. In all, these additional charges are expected to bring an additional £160,000 into the council’s budget.

These proposals come alongside a 2.99 per cent council increase, which will see the average Band D household pay £204.54 to Rother District Council in 2024/25. The full household bill will likely be larger, as other local authorities — such as East Sussex County Council — are also set to increase their precepts.

Despite this, Rother District Council still plans to use £185,000 of its reserves to balance its budget in 2024/25.

This is an improved position when compared to earlier financial forecasts, as the council had initially expected to be drawing around £626,000 from reserves in 2024/25. The improved position means the council’s general reserves are no longer expected to dip below the £5m minimum set by its own financial policies.

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The authority is also looking to increase the scope of its Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS), with the maximum discount available for those in the most need of support increasing from 80 per cent to 100 per cent. This means the least well off will pay no council tax at all.

If backed by cabinet, the proposals will be put to a full council vote at a meeting expected to be held on February 26.