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Caithness News Bulletins February 2004

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COUNCIL RENEW CALL FOR EARLY ANNOUNCEMENT 16 February 04
ON REMOVAL OF COUNCIL TAX DISCOUNTS ON SECOND HOMES

The Highland Council Convener Alison Magee has written again to Scottish Executive Finance and Public Services Minister Andy Kerr urging him to make a firm and public commitment to remove the 50% council tax discount on second and holiday homes and to make a speedy announcement to enable the change to be factored into the Council's 2004 - 2005 Budget.

The Council, which has been leading the campaign to remove the discount on second homes, wants the additional income raised to be retained locally and reinvested in community projects, such as affordable housing.

In Highland it is estimated an additional income of 2.5 million could be generated.

Councillor Magee advised the Minister of her "very real disappointment at the fact that this issue has still not been settled".

She wrote: "In some communities in the Highlands more than half the houses are registered as either second homes or holiday homes. In other areas the proportion is smaller but still significant. This severely limits the availability of housing stock to local residents and, in far too many areas now, individuals and families are living in caravans or sub standard accommodation and paying their council tax in full, whilst nearby properties stand empty for much of the year.

"At the same time, the amounts available to The Highland Council from council tax receipts are greatly reduced because of the 50% discount given to the owners of these semi-occupied properties. It is therefore a matter of very real concern to all our members and to the local population that this matter is resolved as quickly as possible to allow us to put an end to this inequitable situation and deal effectively with housing shortages.

"I do appreciate that there may be distribution issues in need of final resolution but I would urge you, on behalf of the Council, to pursue this matter with all urgency and to provide a firm and public commitment to the additional levy being retained locally for the enhancement of local communities."