COUNCILLORS have agreed to reduce council tax discounts for empty Darlington homes, saving the authority £645,000 a year.

At an extraordinary meeting of Darlington Borough Council yesterday (Thusday, January 24), members voted in favour of the changes, which will see a 50 per cent premium for empty homes introduced in April.

Tax discounts on empty homes and second properties will also be cut, and the six-month full tax discount currently available for empty unfurnished homes will be reduced to one month, saving the authority £552,000.

The current full discount for 12 months on empty properties undergoing major repair will be removed to save £164,000.

Dorothy Long, Labour councillor for Northgate ward welcomed the changes. She said: “If you represent a ward like mine where some landlords own up to 60 properties, it is in their interest to bring them back into a living state.

“This will have a huge effect and will help enormously because any empty properties can bring down the area and there are some great people that live here.”

Councillor Alan Macnab, Liberal Democrat member for North Road agreed, saying: “We welcome the report and fully support it.

“We have a large number of landlords with large numbers of properties as well and some of them are in a pretty awful state. We nag at the private landlords to get them tidied up; it is a devil of a job to do it.”

Council leader Bill Dixon said: “The landlords you are talking about are happy to let them stay empty for months.

“We are robbing from the filthy rich but we have to find the money somehow to help these needy families that this government have so savagely attacked.”