Shropshire Council has now promised to look into the problem, after councillors reported tenants being asked to leave their homes by landlords seeking to cash in on the ‘staycation’ boom.
Councillor Heather Kidd, who represents Chirbury and Worthen, raised the issue at a meeting of the full council as the authority agreed the council tax base – the number of band D equivalent properties in each town and parish – for the coming financial year.
The figures showed the tax base in Chirbury with Brompton parish had shrunk by two properties since the 2021/22 tax base was set – a situation mirrored in other rural areas across the county including Buildwas, Great Hanwood, Kinnerley and Nash.
The result is that the affected parish councils will collect a reduced amount from their precept – or be forced to increase what is charged to other properties to make up the difference.
Councillor Kidd said: “The council tax base for my particular rural area is going down because we are having whole properties taken out and turned into holiday homes because of the ‘staycation’ issue that’s reared its head during the pandemic.
“We are not building houses in the rural areas as we should be. There may be some built in the coming year in my division but that hasn’t happened for many, many years.
“We can’t afford to lose housing, and lose houses from the council tax base in the way that we are at the moment.
“What I would like to raise is that we begin to look at the transfer of homes into business rates as holiday homes and how we are going to deal with that, because Shropshire has suddenly been discovered by the big wide world.
“It also means that pressure on housing within my division means that my casework is huge, in just trying to match people to stay where they work and where they have support.
“So the impact on both the council tax base for the whole division and the council is an important factor, but also the housing that we need – the homes for our local people – is also a fundamental issue.”
She added: “I have nothing against people developing holiday accommodation but the conversion of existing homes into holiday accommodation is something that’s hit Cornwall, the Lake District, a number of different areas, and I don’t wish to see that happening in Shropshire.”
Fellow Liberal Democrat councillor Viv Parry, who represents Ludlow South, said she had also been approached by residents about the issue.
She said: “We are having an awful lot of problems in Ludlow with holiday homes and second homes.
“We are finding that people who have been in some of these houses… are being asked to leave their homes as [their landlords] want to make them into holiday homes so they can charge more. I think that’s happening in a lot of places.”
Councillor Parry said the problem would in turn put added pressure on the county’s social housing sector and the council, with more and more people in need of somewhere to live as private rentals are removed from the market.
Councillor Gwilym Butler, portfolio holder for resources, said he was aware of the issue and would ask the appropriate scrutiny committee to investigate.