HUNDREDS of empty homes in the county have been empty for at least six months, figures show.

The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics listed 320 "unoccupied and substantially unfurnished" properties in September – 273 of which have gathered dust for at least half a year.

The number of "long-term empty homes" has risen slightly since 2018, when there were 261.

The data does not include second homes or dwellings that could be refurbished.

In Herefordshire, 130 properties are now subject to a 100% council tax hike for being empty for two years or longer and no empty homes receive a discount.

Across the country, nearly 483,000 homes sat empty at the latest count in September – 8% more than when records began in 2015.

Will McMahon, director of housing charity Action on Empty Homes, said: "As Britain decides its future in the current General Election we once again see housing as a top issue amongst voters' concerns, yet every government housing statistic is going the wrong way.

"To see empty homes numbers shoot up for a third year alongside rising homelessness is simply unacceptable.

"Our housing market is not delivering the housing we need. This is why we want to see hundreds of thousands of wasted empty homes brought into use for those in housing need."

The country, he added, "cannot afford" to see homes stand empty because councils lack the help to bring them back into use.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: "The Conservatives have failed to deal with the blight of empty properties, weakening council powers to deal with the problem and cutting regeneration funding.

"Labour will give local authorities the powers to hike council tax on empty homes, alongside a plan to build the new council and social homes needed in every part of the country."