ELEVEN Dorset councillors have declared that they are second homeowners – ruling themselves out of a decision to double council tax on the estimated 5,700 second homes in the county from next year.

Among the councillors present at this week’s Dorset Council budget meeting and having to declare an interest were council leader Spencer Flower and his partner Toni Coombs, finance portfolio holder Gary Suttle, fellow Swanage councillor Bill Trite and Weymouth councillor Jon Orrell.

Fourteen out of 81 councillors had apologised for not attending the meeting.

The doubling of council tax on second homes, from 2025, will also see vacant property owners paying the additional tax after a year, instead of the existing two year limit.

The move could bring Dorset Council up to £9.5m in additional spending power each year, although council officers have warned than many second home owners are likely to take steps to try and avoid the extra charge.

The changes will not affect holiday homes in the county which are mostly let out on a commercial basis and pay business rates rather than standard council tax, although officers believe many second home owners may now seek to change the status of their properties as a result of the new rules.

Lib Dem leader Nick Ireland successfully put an amendment to the Tuesday evening meeting to ringfence 40 per cent of any income from second and empty homes to support local housing which he said would produce “a small, but significant difference.”

Cllr Sherry Jesperson said that while she agreed more social homes and homes to rent were needed the amendment might, unfairly, tie the hands of a new council after the May elections.

Porfolio holder Cllr Jill Haynes said she was sympathic to the amendment but said it was not the way to do it – based on a set of unknowns and at a time when financial pressures on the incoming council were not understood.

“I don’t know why we are discussing this today. This is a typical, attention seeking move from the opposition,” she said.

The meeting, the most important of the financial year, also saw the council approve a council tax increase of just under 5per cent which will push its share to over £2,000 a year for the first time for ‘average’ band D properties.