HOUSING bosses could “crank up” council tax on long-term empty properties by up to 300 per cent in a bid to bring empty homes back into use.

Tendring Council’s cabinet agreed on Friday not to make any changes to its Local Council Tax Support scheme for 2020/21.

But Paul Honeywood, cabinet member for housing, warned owners of long-term empty properties that action could be taken in a bid to provide more homes in the district.

“There are no changes proposed to council tax discounts for 2020/21," he said.

“However, I am looking to change the maximum council tax premiums on long term empty properties from April 2021.

“Working to this timescale will give the chance for council officers to write to the owners of long term empty properties informing them f the council’s intentions, which would then give them a decent amount of time to respond – hopefully by bringing their properties back into use.

“When writing to owners, we cold also advise them that money is already in the council’s budget to help and support them in undertaking the necessary works to bring their properties back into use.

“We may also have the ability to be creative and secure nomination rights to the properties, to maximise the benefit from any financial support we are able to provide."

Nomination rights could mean that any property brought back into use with council cash could be used to house council tenants.

Mr Honeywood also stressed that the move would not affect holiday homes, only properties that have been left empty for more than five years.

A report revealed properties that have been left unoccupied and unfurnished for more than five years could see council tax doubled from 2021, while those that have been empty for more than ten years could see the bill tripled.

Based on this year’s council tax figures, that means the bill for the average Band D property in Tendring – if it had been left empty for ten years – could be more than £5,000 a year.

Council leader Neil Stock said there are thought to be thousands of long-term empty homes across Essex.

“The Local Council Tax discount scheme has been essentially unchanged for the past few years," he said.

“The interesting and potentially very controversial bit is that we are talking about cranking up the council tax on long term empty properties – up to 300 per cent.

“Councils now have the power to charge three times the normal council tax on empty properties.

“The reason the council might want to do that is to offer a strong financial incentive to the owner to stop it being a long-term empty property or bring it back into use.

“We don’t want long term empty properties – they serve no good. They’re no good for the economy, no good for our hosing stock or our planning policies.

Labour group leader Ivan Henderson welcomed the move in a bid to clear up derelict homes that are left "falling apart" by owners who may even be in another country.

“They can blight a whole road,” he added.