§ Helen Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what changes to the council tax he intends to make to encourage owners of long-term empty dwellings to bring them back into use. 
§ Ms Armstrong
One of the reasons why there is a hard core of unused empty dwellings is that the cost of owning them is relatively low. At present, there is no council tax at all for the owners of dwellings which require or are undergoing major repair works or structural alterations. Long-term empty properties create extra costs for councils because they can encourage vandalism, crime, accumulation of rubbish, vermin and a general nuisance. Exempt from council tax, the owners do not make a contribution towards these costs and they also benefit from other locally provided services like police and fire services.
The Government do not believe this is justified where a dwelling has been exempt for more than a year. We have, therefore, amended the council tax regulations so that from 1 April 2000, any dwelling in England and Wales requiring or undergoing major repair works or structural alterations which has been exempt for more than a year, will be subject to the standard 50 per cent. council tax attracted by other unoccupied dwellings.