Westmorland and Furness Council agree budget including 100% council tax premium on second homes

The new council will see a 4.99% rise in council tax from 1 April. Credit: PA Images

Westmorland and Furness Council has agreed the budget for the new authority which includes a 100% council tax premium on second homes from 2024/25.

Council tax levels have also been voted to be harmonised throughout the Westmorland and Furness area.

A 4.99% rise in council tax will come on 1 April - this is made up of a 2.99% basic increase plus another 2% specifically to help fund adult social care, known as the Adult Social Care Precept.

Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: "I am delighted that today we have agreed the first budget for the new Westmorland and Furness Council. 

"The budget provides the financial underpinning to support delivery of our ambitious council plan in a way that it is pragmatic and prudent.

"This represents another huge milestone in us becoming the sovereign council and delivering on our vision of making Westmorland and Furness a better place to live, work and thrive.

"We face historically high inflation, increased demand for services and insufficient government funding. 

"Despite these challenges, this budget allows us to invest up front in transforming services and delivering on the benefits promised by local government reorganisation of improved efficiency and effectiveness.

"This is no small achievement given that it has been developed while we are still a Shadow Authority with only three paid employees."

The council states its decision to double the council tax charge on second homes was taken alongside other decisions intended to help the council tackle the affordable housing crisis in the area.

These include a 200% premium for properties kept empty for more than five years, and even higher charges from April 2024 for properties kept empty for more than 10 years.

Councillor Jarvis continued: "Housing is a huge local issue and one that we are prioritising.

"We want housing to be available for local people and we don’t want homes wasted, lying empty for years.

"The additional income we generate from these decisions will help fund work to tackle the housing challenges that we face in our area."

Councillor Jarvis believes that although residents won't be happy with the rise in council tax it was required to keep existing services running.

He said: "I understand, given cost of living pressures, that people may be concerned by the increase in council tax that has been agreed.

“However, to not increase council tax would mean making significant and immediate changes to services that people rely on, changes we have been unable to plan for as a Shadow Authority. We don’t think that’s right.

"We know that some people that may find the additional cost difficult. That’s why we have ensured that we have a generous council tax reduction scheme available to help, including automatically treating an application for Universal Credit as an application for council tax reduction."

The Shadow Authority also agreed a planned £253 million of capital spending over the next five years on projects around the area, with the majority being projects carried forward form the existing councils.

Speaking about the capital programme, Councillor Jarvis said: "We are an ambitious council, and this is an ambitious investment programme that spans our area.

"It includes very significant Town Deal investment in Barrow, Town Hall redevelopment in Penrith, renovation of the Lido and Prom in Grange, phase one of the Ulverston Leisure Centre, flood defence and town centre improvements in Kendal, as well as work across our council area to enhance our facilities and support our services.

"This capital programme will impact right across our diverse area from Piel Island to Appleby, Penrith and beyond.  And this is just the start, as this council will continue to work for the benefit of all our communities and residents, wherever they live within Westmorland and Furness."

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