Other changes proposed include:
- a right for council tax payers to pay by 12 monthly instalments (currently 10)
- technical changes to allow the provision of statutory information in the tax council demand electronically, to encourage low cost e-billing
- preventing ‘Rent a Roof’ solar photovoltaic installations on domestic properties becoming liable for non-domestic rates.
In addition, the consultation asks for views on a change to redress an alleged unfairness to home owners who have in the past converted part of their house as a "granny flat" and now reincorporated it into the family home.
Pickles told the BBC:
"I want to do more to help everyday families with their cost of living, and protect family homes from tax increases.Of the £20 figure, the consultation paper says:
"By removing the subsidised tax breaks for empty homes and second homes, we can cut £20 a year off families' council tax bills by treating everyone equally and fairly."
"If authorities choose to operate these new flexibilities to maximise revenue in order to relieve upward on council tax, the value would be equivalent to approximately £20 reduction in the bill for a Band D property (averaged across England)."It adds a proviso that "in practice, the value will vary considerably between areas, and will of course depend on the discounts actually determined by each billing authority."
The general impression given in the document is that councils are likely to want to retain some discounts. It points out, for instance, the potential hardship to people who have moved home without selling or letting their properties and to developers who have vacant new properties on their books if discounts are abolished. So it is unlikely that the £20 reduction will be achieved in many areas.
The consultation is open for eight weeks until 29 December 2011. The government plans to incorporate the final changes in a finance bill to be brought forward in this session of Parliament.