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City's bid to scrap council tax discount
Thousands of households in Brighton and Hove face losing their council tax discounts in a historic move being considered by the city council.
A leading Green councillor has written to Government minister Eric Pickles calling for powers to cut or reduce the discounts for the city’s student and single households.
The move would net Brighton and Hove City Council millions of pounds in extra revenue each year.
It comes as the authority’s policy and resources committee is expected to agree to cut the council tax discount for second and empty home owners.
The 1,800 second home owners will lose their 10% discount, The length of time owners of empty properties can claim council tax exemptions will be reduced.
Last year 17,000 people received the reduction.
This would raise £1 million a year, but Coun Leo Littman’s proposals to extend the cuts to students and single occupants could bring in up to £20 million.
Brighton and Hove has the lowest proportion of property owners paying the full council tax on homes in Sussex with nearly half of all properties eligible for discounts or exemptions.
About 57,000 properties in the city currently claim council tax exemption or discounts, including 4,500 student homes and 45,000 homes lived in by single occupants.
It is not known how much council tax students and single occupants could be made to pay under the pro posals, but if both were made to pay full council tax on band C homes it would raise an extra £20 million a year.
Coun Littman, deputy chair of policy and resources committee, said: “Council tax is far from a perfect system and is in need of root and branch reform.
In Brighton and Hove we have an unusually high number of homes occupied by students who are exempt from council tax and single-person households that get a significant discount and both are growing rapidly as a proportion of homes in the city.
“I’ve asked the Government to con sider changes to allow councils to make the balance of local tax paid fairer and more sustainable.”
In his letter to Mr Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government, Coun Littman wrote that even a very small percentage change to the levels of discounts would make a “tangible difference”.
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said: “We do not believe that individual students should pay council tax but we do believe that the Government should add additional funding to local authority government grants for those areas with high numbers of students.
“We are very concerned low income households will be paying council tax for the first time due to Government cuts to the housing benefit budget which will affect 10,000 households in Brighton and Hove.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Local Government Finance Act 2012 has given councils the flexibility to remove or reduce council tax relief on empty homes and second homes; these flexibilities could help reduce the overall rate of council tax by £20 on an average Band D home.
“We will not be making any further changes and the long-standing student exemption and single person discount on council tax will remain in place.”