A PLAN to impose higher council tax charges on empty homes in Wychavon could be approved next week.

Wychavon District Council wants to increase the amount it charges by 100 per cent from April for homes that have been empty for more than two years.

The plan, which has been made possible by a change in law, would see council tax bills for long-term empty homes doubled from April.

The district council currently charges an extra 50 per cent on top of the normal council tax bills for homes which have been empty for more than two years.

The government changed the law to help reduce the number of empty homes across the country and gave councils the opportunity to raise council tax for those that have been unoccupied for more than two years.

The government believes the increased changes would act as an incentive for owners to bring empty homes back into use and help meet the current housing shortage.

However, the decision on whether to apply the charges remains with the district council based on housing need and the number of long-term empty homes.

There are currently 148 homes in Wychavon which have been empty for more than two years.

The district council would bring in an extra £115,000 from the increased charges if the number of empty homes remained the same but reiterated its priority is to cut the amount of long-term unoccupied homes.

Wychavon District Council would keep around ten per cent of the money it brought in from the increased charges with the rest divided between the county council, fire service and police.

Currently, homes empty for up to one month are exempt from council tax and normal council tax is charged on properties that have been empty for more than one month and up to two years. The councuil said it has no plans to change that.

A report, to be discussed by the council's executive committee at a meeting next Tuesday (January 9), said the charges would not be used to penalise homeowners who are battling to sell in a struggling market.

Government guidance has also made it clear that increased charges should not be used to punish the owners of homes which are genuinely for sale and rent and the district council would be able to grant exemptions where appropriate.

The change in law would allow the district council to increase charges by an extra 300 per cent for homes empty for more than 10 years by 2021 and 200 per cent for homes empty for more than five years by 2021 but it said has no immediate plans to do so.