TEST Valley residents who receive council tax benefit will not be hit in the pocket when a new local council tax support scheme starts in April, but second home owners will no longer receive a discount.

The new scheme reduces by 12 per cent the amount each council will get from government to help support welfare claimants, but Test Valley has decided to make good the £70,000 shortfall in other ways.

To help rebalance their budgets, councillors meeting in Romsey opted to make a number of changes to target wealthier individuals.

They opted to abolish the current 10 per cent council tax discount for second homes, reduce the current 100 per cent exemption period for vacant properties from six months to three months and abolish the current 50 per cent Council Tax discount for vacant properties that applies after the current six-month, 100 per cent exemption period.

The cabinet also decided to bring in a premium council tax payment of an additional 50 per cent on top of the full rate, for properties that are vacant for two years or more.

In August, TVBC launched a 12-week consultation to find out residents’ views on how the new scheme might work.

The council also asked for feedback on proposed changes to discounts and exemptions on second and empty homes to help make up the funding shortfall, which equates to approximately £70,000.

The new measures are in response to that consultation.

Peter Giddings, economic portfolio holder said: “Feedback from the consultation supported the view that we should protect those on the lowest incomes and this has been reflected by our plans.

“We also hope that changes to the discounts for empty homes will result in a greater number of properties being placed on the market and help alleviate the current housing shortage in the area.”

The changes will need to be approved by the full council in January.