OWNERS of long-term empty homes in Wychavon will see their council tax bill doubled after new plans were backed by councillors.

Wychavon District Council’s executive committee agreed to increase the amount it charges for homes that have been empty for more than two years by 100 per cent from April.

The district council currently charges an extra 50 per cent on top of the normal council tax bills for homes which have been empty for more than two years.

There are 148 homes in Wychavon which have been empty for more than two years – just under half of which have been empty for more than five years.

Twenty-six homes have been empty for more than a decade.

Vic Allison, deputy managing director of Wychavon District Council said: “The intention of this revised legislation is to encourage and bring back empty homes into use.

“We have a shortage of housing and leaving properties empty is not helping that.

“This is not intended to catch people who are genuinely trying to sell properties and they will be exempt from this rule.”

Councillor Gerry O’Donnell said: “Anything that is a disincentive to having empty houses is to be welcomed in my view and this is one way of doing it certainly that has a bonus of income also.”

The government changed the law to help reduce the number of empty homes across the country and gave councils the opportunity to raise council tax for those that have been unoccupied for more than two years.

The government believes the increased changes would act as an incentive for owners to bring empty homes back into use and help meet the current housing shortage.

However, the decision on whether to apply the charges remains with the district council based on housing need and the number of long-term empty homes.

The district council said it would bring in an extra £115,000 from the increased charges, if the number of empty homes remained the same, but reiterated its priority is to cut the amount of long-term unoccupied homes.

Government guidance has also made it clear that increased charges should not be used to punish the owners of homes which are genuinely for sale.