New council tax premiums introduced by Plaid and Independent Councillors will cause a hammer blow to the local businesses and create a headache for farming communities, according to Carmarthenshire Labour Councillors.
Plaid Cymru-led Carmarthenshire Council will now levy up to 300% council tax on empty properties and 200% council tax on holiday let businesses and self accommodation properties that are liable to pay council tax.
During a heated and emotive debate, Cllr Rob James acknowledged that urgent action was needed to tackle the 1,833 empty properties in Carmarthenshire and called on the Welsh Government to work with the local authority to also support further action on empty shops which are “blighting local communities”.
The Carmarthenshire Labour Leader did, however, raise concerns that there were insufficient safeguards for those in the farming community that have been encouraged to diversify their business with agritourism ventures and the creation of additional properties on the farmland to allow farmers to pass the business onto the next generation. Concerns were also raised that holiday let companies that fail to meet the new requirement to rent out their properties for at least 182 days, due to weather and part bookings, could now lose their businesses with the additional tax burden. Labour’s amendment to create exemptions for the farming communities and the tourism sector were voted against by all Plaid Cymru and Independent Councillors.
Carmarthenshire Labour later pointed out that statistics show that even if all empty properties, second homes and holiday lets were turned into residential properties. there still wouldn’t be enough properties to meet local demand – with 4,500 people on the council’s current housing list.
Speaking during the debate, Cllr Rob James stated “We acknowledge and sympathise with the concerns that there are insufficient homes for local needs and we absolutely need to ensure that people can live in the communities that they were raised in.
“We also need to play our part as a Council in supporting residents by tackling our own empty council homes that require refurbishment, when we have an enormous backlog. Failing to address our own empty homes, whilst pointing the finger will be seen as hypocritical.
“The policy proposals introduced by Plaid Cyrmu and Independent Councillors are not sophisticated and they have the potential of causing real damage to two of important sectors – namely tourism and agriculture.
“There are around 4500 on the council list and there are two and half thousand properties classified as empty or second homes. There it is clear that after eight years, Plaid Cymru and Independents are still failing to build enough properties. The fight is not over. We will continue to press for additional exemptions over the next year to safeguard to essential sectors for Carmarthenshire.”