OXFORD City Council wants to double its council tax charge on empty and unfurnished houses in a clampdown on some homeowners.

Currently the council is able to charge 50 per cent on empty homes but it said it wants to increase that to 100 per cent after being told it would be able to last year.

In Oxford, 80 properties have sat empty for more than two years, the local authority said.

The policy is included in the city council’s budget, which is set to be passed later this month.

Councillor Ed Turner, the council’s board member for finance and asset management, said: “These are challenging times for Oxford.

“We face significant pressures on services coupled with reductions in funding.

“This has been exacerbated by the latest assessments of the council’s funding from retained business rates, which have been revised downwards.

“Notwithstanding continued and severe reductions in government funding, we are committed to supporting Oxford as a great place to live, making our city safer, greener, and a more equal place, while seeing its economy thrive – this budget contains important measures towards that goal.”

In November, the Chancellor Philip Hammond said councils across the country would be able to hike the charge on empty homes from 50 per cent to 100 per cent if they had been empty for two years or longer.

Mr Hammond said as he presented his Budget: “It can’t be right to leave property empty when so many are desperate for a place to live.”

While no date has been set for this legislation to be enacted, the council said it wants to implement it as soon as it comes into force.

No figures of money the council expects to bring in are included in its budget report, but it states: “Clearly the addition of a further council tax premium may change behaviour in terms of bringing the property back into use more quickly; if it is not changed, then additional income to the council would result.”

The council’s executive board will be asked for its views on the policy and the 2018/19 budget next Tuesday, before all councillors get to have their say at a special meeting on February 19.

City council tax for ratepayers in Oxford is expected to increase by 2.99 per cent, above the 1.99 per cent hike it had initially planned to charge for 2018/19.

The Government announced councils would be able to increase its council tax beyond what they had expected in December.

That will mean the average Band D council tax payer in Oxford will be charged £296.86 over 2018/19 – £8.67 more than the £288.19 charge for 2017/18.

And they will be hit by the 5.99 per cent increase in the portion of their council tax paid to Oxfordshire County Council in its plans for the next financial year.

That will mean Band D taxpayers are charged another £80.60 – up from £1.345.59 this financial year to £1.426.19 in 2018/19.

According to the city council, other priorities include spending more on trying to eradicate homelessness and rough sleeping.

It said it will spend another £187,000 next year and then another £200,000 from 2019/20.

As reported in the Oxford Mail yesterday, the council said it had ‘listened’ to comments from residents who used its budget consultation to rally against proposed increases for Headington car park. They have now been scrapped.

The council said it plans to bring them in line with Union Street and Summertown car parks.

While it said it also proposes freezing park-and-ride charges for most stays so that they are fully brought in line with Oxfordshire County Council’s own park-and-rides.

The local authority said it also planned a new project fund in an effective promotion of the Oxford Living Wage. It said it has got strong public support.

For other details and to see the city council’s budget and financial strategy until 2021/22, visit oxford.gov.uk.