Crawley council leader sends clear message to West Sussex County Council about potholes

West Sussex County Council should spend the money raised from additional council tax bills to help repair potholes.
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This was the message from Crawley Borough Council leader Michael Jones after the authority agreed that people who own second homes but leave them empty most of the time should pay twice as much council tax.

The decision, which applies to properties such as holiday homes, was made during a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (March 27).

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It was also agreed that the owners of homes left unoccupied and mostly unfurnished would have to pay the 100 per cent premium after a year, rather than the current two years.

Image: Pixabay free imagesImage: Pixabay free images
Image: Pixabay free images

The aim of the decisions – which have been taken by district and borough councils across the county – was to not only reduce the number of empty homes but to ensure that anyone who chose to leave them empty would find themselves ‘making a greater contribution to help pay for local services’.

Mr Jones said: “It is my view that, at a time when many people can’t even afford one home, those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford more than one house should make a higher contribution.”

He told the meeting that the changes were expected to add £70,000 to the borough council’s coffers – and around £500,000 for the county council, which receives the lion’s share of council tax.

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He said: “This is not an inconsiderable amount of money and quite the windfall for the county council, through no additional work or effort required from themselves – we will have done it all for them.

Michael JonesMichael Jones
Michael Jones

“And as we’ve done them such a favour, I would like to make a suggestion about what they could do with this money in the spirit of co-operation.”

Referring to comments on social media about ‘the dreadful state of the roads in Crawley and across the county’, he added: “I intend to write a letter to the leader of [the county council], Paul Marshall, to urge him to arrange for all such additional funds derived from the boroughs and districts in this new way to be put towards a ring-fenced fund for pothole repair and road resurfacing, to increase the capacity for repairs and to address the manifest deficiencies in road maintenance in Crawley over a sustained period now.

“With other boroughs and districts in West Sussex having significantly higher numbers of second homes, this should mean many millions of pounds extra available for the county council to spend on this within the next few years.

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“I estimate a minimum of £10m but it’s probably a lot more than that.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “Like most local authorities, West Sussex County Council’s budgets are under huge pressure and any additional income will be welcome.

“Decisions on how the county council spends its funding will be made by elected county councillors through our council plan and budget making process.

“They will weigh up the various service pressures and priorities across all of the responsibilities of the council.”

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The borough council declared a housing emergency in February.

There are currently 35 long-term empty properties in Crawley – 26 have been unoccupied for between two and five years, five for between five and ten years and four for more than 10 years.

Another 331 are classed as second homes.