An “anti-English” decision to double the council tax premium on second home owners in Gwynedd could be challenged in court, campaigners have warned.
A crowdfunding page has been launched amid claims that the charge – which is fully permitted under current Welsh legislation – is “discriminatory” and “based on anti-English sentiments.”
This is despite measures also being in place in areas such as the Lake District and Cornwall to stem the snapping up of holiday homes, with the premium also being levied on local people who own second properties in Gwynedd.
But while the authority has stressed that the charge isn’t in place to “punish second home owners,” the CrowdJustice campaign claims that the premium “disproportionately affects those who aren’t Welsh” and has already raised over £8,000 with a view towards launching a judicial review of the tax hike.
Current legislation allows Welsh councils to charge a council tax premium of up to 100 per cent on second and long term empty homes, with two of the 22 currently charging the maximum amount – namely Gwynedd and Swansea.
Some parties have been campaigning to increase this figure to as much as 500% in a bid to support locals in light of the “out of control” housing market.
Most other authorities have so far resisted the maximum premiums – essentially doubling the charge paid if it were not a second home – fearing it would spur on more to explore ways of avoiding paying council tax at all.
Another six councils, however, charge premiums of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent, with some planning to increase this figure over the coming years.
But the crowdfunding page, set up by Anthony Chancellor, claims that last month’s decision to double Gwynedd’s premium from 50 per cent to 100 per cent means that many will face having to pay around £3,600 a year in tax alone for a two bed property.
He wrote: “The decision taken was unfair, irrational, unreasonable and discriminatory. We believe the decision was based on anti-English sentiments.
“Little consideration was given to the impact on older people, those who suffer from disabilities or those who are on fixed incomes.
“Some of our group are pensioners and will genuinely struggle to pay. Furthermore, the decision disproportionately affects those who aren’t Welsh.”
They have already surpassed the £6,000 target, which they say will be used to pay for advice from a senior barrister on the merits of a judicial reviewing.
A Gwynedd Council spokesperson said in response: “Recent research shows that 60 per cent of Gwynedd residents are priced out of the housing market.
“At the same time, Gwynedd has the highest percentage of second homes in Wales and is amongst the highest in terms of long term empty properties. The council was given specific powers by the Senedd to set a Premium of up to 100 per cent on the Council Tax in relation to both these types of properties.
“The council has made it a priority to address this situation and to help ensure a suitable supply of affordable housing for local people to live in their communities through our Housing Strategy.”