Council tax hike looms for some unoccupied Wirral homes

Council Tax for some Wirral homeowners is expected to double in a matter of weeks.

The change will see those who own a home that is empty and unfurnished charged double Council Tax after a year. Previously, homeowners in this situation would have had two years before an additional 100% would be charged on top of any usual Council Tax.

According to a Wirral Council report, this will help raise nearly £800,000 for the local authority and is part of an empty property policy that looks “to encourage prompt property re-occupation and discourage properties being held empty by speculators waiting for an increase in values.” If it scrapped the policy entirely, it would lose the council £1.7m.

The policy is being brought in as part of Wirral Council’s budget proposals for the next financial year which will run between April 2024 and March 2025. This means that if councillors approve a budget on 26 February, those with houses empty for more than a year will see their Council Tax double from 1 April.

Every year, local authorities are required to set a balanced budget for the next financial year. Wirral’s budget is expected to be set at the end of February following the unanimous endorsement by councillors who sit on its Policy and Resources committee.

The budget won’t see major cuts to frontline services this financial year but more than £12m of savings will be made by increasing fees and charges, cutting business inefficiencies and changing how services are provided.

A total of £8.61m is also expected to be raised by increasing the amount of Council Tax people pay by 4.99%, the maximum allowed by the government without a referendum. According to a report presented to councillors at a 13 February Policy and Resources committee meeting, according to the council, the rise is needed “in order to secure future streams of funding that will moderate cuts to key services in the future.”

A more than £2m project fund and infrastructure spend is also expected to be approved which will be spent on “specific improvement activities that will have a visible impact across the borough.” On 13 February councillors said this funding would help “tackle the things that people complain to us about the most” and avoid what people may see as “decay and decline in the borough.”

On 13 February, the local authority’s leader Cllr Paul Stuart thanked councillors for working together, adding the budget “demonstrates the council’s commitment to produce a stable and prudent financial basis to operate from and recognises the finite resources that we do have. We are putting them to good use.”

He also proposed using some of the £400,000 saved by closing Wallasey Town Hall for another year until April 2025 to contribute £246,000 towards the project fund which was approved by the committee.

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