‘Panicking’ property owners in Pembrokeshire hit by hefty bills from the recent Council Tax hike for second homes and holiday lets have been urged to contact the Local Authority’s ‘revenues and benefits team’ by the Cabinet member for Finance.

Cabinet member for Finance Cllr Alec Cormack, said Pembrokeshire is facing nearly £9m in council tax arrears, in part due to an “unprecedented bloc” of some 90 homes unable to meet the 182-day holiday letting guidelines, leaving their owners liable for second homes premium rates.

In December councillors backed a 200% council tax premium, effectively a treble rate, for second homes.

Properties used as holiday lets were exempt from the premium if they could be let over a number of days per year, which has risen to 182, up from a previous 70.

At the May 9 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, Martletwy county councillor Di Clements asked Cllr Cormack to provide information on the number of properties that have applied for a council tax exemption since the delivery of this year’s bill.

“This should be split out by properties that were charged a second homes premium and properties which were not charged a second homes premium.”

Cllr Cormack responded by saying there were seven classes of “exception rather than exemption” from the premium, with five static and two with changed figures.

Of those two changed, he said Class 1, properties currently for sale, had seen a rise from 34 on March 1, to 81 on May 1.

The second exception, Class 6, properties which had a planning condition restricting occupancy leading to an exception in the premium, had seen a rise from 402 to 417 during the same period.

He said figures were now being recorded monthly to provide feedback on the Welsh Government 182-day lettings rule.

Cllr Cormack said provisional council arrears were £8.819m for 2023-24, compared with £7.175m for 2022-23: “A significant element in the increase is due to approximately 90 properties which the valuation officer agency moved from non-domestic rates to council tax, an unprecedented bloc, these people move into council tax by virtue of in the previous 12 months they haven’t done 182 days in the previous year; so the they immediately become in arrears for a whole year’s council tax and the premium.”

Cllr Clements then asked: “I’ve been contacted by people who have £7,000 to £15,000 council tax bills; that’s huge amount of money for then to find, so how can you help these people? What have you put in place to help these people manage that debt? Many out there are panicking, quite reasonably.”

Cllr Cormack responded, saying anyone in such a situation should contact the revenues and benefits team, which was reaching payments plans for such circumstances.

“They are talking to people; they are reaching payment plans with individuals who have had a large bill appear,” he remarked.

“Talk to the team and they will see what they can do. I know the team is dealing with a much larger number of enquiries.”