New moves to charge double council tax on second homes in Herefordshire have been attacked as discriminatory.

David Pugh of Leominster claimed at a full Herefordshire Council meeting on Friday (February 9) that the decision, later unanimously approved, was discriminatory against second and other property owners under the Equality Act 2010, and so was “a breach of council duty and ethics”.

The council’s head of finance Coun Pete Stoddart replied: “Property owners as a group are not protected by the Equality Act.”


He added that the discretion which the government last year gave to councils to raise such premiums “is intended to encourage homeowners to bring their properties back into use for the benefit of the local community and economy”.

Mr Pugh, who said he was neither a second nor empty property owner, responded that the council “will be collecting fees for little or zero benefit for owners of second or empty properties”.

And he asked Coun Stoddart: “What public funds will be needed defending the legal challenges inevitably to be adopted by outraged private property owners being labelled as cash cows by the council?”


Coun Stoddart replied: “We are not targeting [them], it’s your choice if you wish to leave it empty.”

Green group leader Coun Ellie Chowns said the number of empty homes in Herefordshire rose 16 per cent last year, well above the national trend.

“We have more than a thousand empty homes that could be used to accommodate people who desperately need a home, and more than 700 second homes,” she said.

What you will pay

From April 1, 2025, a “100 per cent premium” – that is, double – will be levied on second (furnished) homes in Herefordshire.

What are your thoughts?

You can send a letter to the editor to have your say by clicking here.

Letters should not exceed 250 words and local issues take precedence.

There is already a 100 per cent premium on properties in the county which have been empty for between two and five years, which rises to 200 per cent (i.e. triple) for those empty up to ten years, then to 300 per cent.

But from this April, double will be changed on properties empty for just a year. The other thresholds will remain.

The measures are expected to generate around £6 million extra a year from next year, the council said.