Council’s empty property council tax policy penalising wrong people, says MSP

Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson has criticised Dumfries and Galloway Council’s policy of imposing a 200 per cent Council Tax bill on empty properties because he believes it is penalising people who were not intended to be affected by the new policy.

Alex Fergusson said:“I have no problem with this policy where it is aimed at property developers ‘land banking’ flats and houses that could and should be let, or even second home owners who never let out their properties, but there are too many people who are desperately trying to sell houses on a completely sterile market who are now being penalised for being unable to find a buyer despite, in most cases, reducing the asking price of the properties considerably. Everyone knows that it is harder to sell a house which is let than one with vacant possession, yet the only way people can avoid paying 200 per cent Council Tax is to rent them out. In circumstances where the owner has been left the property due to the death of a relative, for instance, it is surely unduly punitive to punish the seller in this way when they have taken every possible step to sell the property.

“I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Council in early July and was told that the Council was looking at the issue, since then I have heard nothing, other than from more constituents who are becoming aware of the problem with the arrival of 200% Council Tax demands.

“In some circumstances this is simply not fair. The legislation clearly gives Councils the ability to give 100% discretionary relief, and I have written again to the Chief Executive asking him to ensure the Council uses that ability in circumstances such as I have described.”