COUNCIL chiefs will clamp down on the owners of empty homes next year by doubling the fee they pay.

Since April 2013, local authorities have had the power to charge a premium to owners of properties which have stood unoccupied and unfurnished for at least two years.

In line with Government rules, Cheshire East Council charges a premium of 50 per cent of the council tax charged for the empty property.

But following an announcement made in the Chancellor’s budget last autumn to increase that rate, owners of empty homes will pay a 100 per cent premium from next April – meaning they will pay twice the amount of council tax as other residents.

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Cllr Sam Corcoran, leader of CEC’s Labour opposition, welcomed the changes as a way of bringing empty homes back into use.

He said: “When I joined the council, you used to get a discount on your council tax for an empty property. I thought that was wrong, and we got it changed.

“The impact when the discount was abolished – firstly council tax receipts increased by between £2 million and £3 million – but perhaps more importantly, the number of empty properties fell.

“Now, we do know that we have got a shortage of properties, and therefore I would encourage all people to not leave properties empty. And if we can do things with our tax base to encourage them to do so, that is welcome.

“It is always nice to do well out of doing good – and in this we are increasing our tax receipts and doing good by encouraging people not to leave properties empty.”

Meanwhile, CEC is also reducing the amount of time an empty rental property can have a council tax discount from eight weeks to six weeks from next April.