Second home tax in Dorset delayed

Dorset Council was set to charge owners of second homes double council tax from April 2024 but its plans have been thwarted by the slow progress of government legislation through the House of Lords.

The government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is expected to allow councils new flexibility to double council tax on homes that are occupied ‘periodically’ i.e. second homes, and it was anticipated that it would become law by the end of March 2023.

Swanage Bay aerial view
Michael King

Swanage has 18 percent of all the second homes in the Dorset Council area

Intended to address the housing crisis

The aim of the move is intended to address the housing crisis, especially in attractive coastal towns like Swanage where, according to Dorset Council November 2022 figures, there are 1,032 second homes – approximately 17 percent of the town’s housing.

This figure does not include holiday homes that are classed as businesses for tax purposes and pay business rates instead of council tax.

The introduction of the council tax premium for second home owners has already been discussed at several Dorset Council meetings, with many councillors detailing the plight of many thousands on the local housing register who don’t have a first home.

Worth Matravers duck pond

The Purbeck village of Worth Matravers has many second homes that lie empty for much of the year

Expected to be passed by full council

At each stage, the proposal has been backed unanimously by councillors and it was expected to be passed by full council at a meeting at the end of March 2023.

Dorset Council in a statement issued on Thursday 23rd March 2023 said:

“Councillors were due to vote on proposals at a rescheduled full council meeting on Thursday 30th March 2023 in order for the change to be introduced from April 2024, as the council was required to make the decision a year in advance.

“However, we now understand from the government that there is no likelihood of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill becoming law before the end of March and therefore a decision on this matter cannot be taken by full council on Thursday 30th March as planned.”

Flying Scotsman at Corfe on Swanage Railway

The community in Corfe Castle has fought hard to ensure it keeps its primary school, village stores and pubs despite many houses being bought as second homes

“Continues to be something we are keen to explore”

Deputy leader of Dorset Council, councillor Peter Wharf, who’s been championing the move, said:

“The proposal to introduce council tax premiums on second homes and empty properties continues to be something we are keen to explore, following constructive discussions at the overview committee and cabinet.

“We will watch the progress of the government’s new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill closely and bring this to full council once the legislation has passed.”

Peaceful Lulworth Cove attracts 500,000 visitors every year

Picturesque Lulworth Cove attracts many to buy a second home nearby

Slow progress

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has been passed in the House of Commons and is now making its way through the House of Lords, where it is currently at the committee stage.

There will have to be a third reading in the House of Lords before it goes to the final stages and receives Royal Assent and becomes law. This should be possible by the time the Houses of Parliament breaks for the summer in July 2023.

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