My speech was as follows:
“There are over 3000 households on the housing register in East Devon, waiting for homes to become available.
Over 3000 houses in East Devon are empty.
Around 25000 homes in Devon and Cornwall are reported to be empty.
In East Devon, over 3000 houses are classed as empty. Almost 2500 of that number are second homes or holiday lets that are empty for more than six months of the year.
That is one and a half times the size of Ottery St Mary, in East Devon alone.
We are told that there is a housing crisis and many more houses must be built.
Empty houses are bad for the economy. Without enough people to spend money in local shops and pubs, communities will wither.
Empty houses are bad for community spirit. Without enough people to participate in community projects communities will wither.
I imagine that this initiative would find widespread support among residents in East Devon.
I believe it is fair that people who own second homes should pay at least the same amount of council tax as single home owners.
The extra income to East Devon – tens of thousands of pounds – would be used for housing services at a time of Government cuts and enormous pressure on finances.
I hope the council will support this move, which in my view, is long overdue.”
The motion was seconded by Cllr Roger Giles.
Before any debate could get going, Cllr Paul Diviani (Leader of the council) proposed it should be debated at the Cabinet meeting on 30 November, accompanied by an officer’s report, detailing the financial considerations. The all-Conservative cabinet will then produce a resolution which will return to Full Council.
I was a bit surprised as I was expecting a debate, but it seemed a reasonable way forward. I will be speaking at the Cabinet meeting on 30 November, which starts at 5.30pm.