Gwynedd’s council tax premium could “kill the goose that laid the golden egg” and attract “not very nice people” to the area, councillors fear.

Councillors raised concerns about coastal ghost towns, businesses in decline and people who “understood our way of living” not returning due to the second home premium at a debate about the premium for the next financial year, with councillors agreeing to keep the rate at 150% for second homes and 100% for long-term vacant houses.

There are 500 fewer second homes subject to the council tax premium in Gwynedd compared to a year ago, with more homes moving back into the council tax system. But the meeting heard there was “not enough data” to say if the effects were due to the premium itself.

43 councillors voted to keep rates the same, four abstained and three voted against. Cllr Dewi Owen called for detailed information about the premium’s impact on coastal areas like Aberdyfi.

He said: “I have five shops and cafés for sale. What the English say is ‘you don’t want us here, so we are not coming’. It is sad when a business owner comes to me as a local councillor and says can you or Gwynedd help me? Look at Pwllheli, what is happening there, a lot of coastal villages are like ghost towns, people still come in droves in the summer but they don’t shop locally, they depend on Tesco bringing their food. Isn’t that sad for local communities trying to make a living? We need to look after our village businesses.”

Cllr John Brynmor Hughes was “pleased” the premium would remain at 150% but said the tax’s impact on Abersoch had been “very sad”. “We’ve lost people, grandparents who have come here, children who have inherited houses, they can’t afford to stay here, they sell up and move. They understood our language, our way of living, support our shops, the people coming now are not very nice. There has been a big change. They don’t understand our way of life, they don’t shop in our shops, eat in our restaurants, pubs or cafés, it has a huge impact. I have a friend coming to Nefyn for 70 years, he inherited a house from his father and grandfather, he says ‘I can’t afford to pay this council tax premium,’ he has had to go, he’s not the only one.”

Cllr Angela Russell said many pubs were open half of the week in Pen Llŷn.

“It’s really sad when they have been so busy – it won’t be long before they close. Five hundred fewer houses? What does the figure have to be before alarm bells sound? We don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Cllr Anwen Davies said it was “heartbreaking” that young people had to go over the border for employment. “What’s left for local people, if tourism slows down with the taxing of second homes,” she said.

Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Craig ab Iago, “struggled” to believe 3,214 people had transferred to the council tax system and queried resources to investigate those who played the system. He also refuted “the narrative of the goose that laid golden egg of tourism,” saying: “Gwynedd is about more than tourism.”

Cllr Elin Walker Jones added: “We have to be sure everyone has a home, that second homes are not second homes, but for people to live in.”

Cllr Richard Glyn Roberts asked how many holiday homes had become permanent residences and if locals had bought them.

Head of finance Dewi Morgan Dew replied: “We don’t have that sort of profile – we have an idea of trends, but that info is not available yet.”