Council tax premiums on long-term empty homes in St Helens will double from April.
The move comes after the government recently changed the rules to allow local authorities to increase the premium from 50 per cent to 100 per cent.
At its meeting last night, St Helens Council approved proposals to do just that, with effect from April 1.
The premium applies to long-term empty properties that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for at least two years.
Council leader Derek Long said the increase will ensure empty homes are brought back into use more quickly.
The Labour leader said it will also ensure the council receives more revenue to take it forward as an organisation.
Coun Long said: “I think it’s essential in terms of the good management of the housing stock within this borough.
“It’s also essential in terms of the good management of the neighbourhoods in this borough as well.”
Currently, there are 915 empty properties within the borough which have been empty for six months or greater.
Of these, 355 have been empty for two years or more and are subject to the premium charge, of which 138 have been empty for five years or more.
Labour’s Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care, accused some home-owners of “sitting” on empty properties.
Coun Quinn claimed one semi-detached house in her ward of West Park has been empty for around two decades.
She said numerous terraced properties are also vacant within the ward.
The Labour councillor added that all of the vacant properties attract vandals, over-growth, fly-tipping and squatters.
Coun Quinn said: “Considering we’ve got homeless people in the town and we’ve got people who can’t get on the housing ladder, and yet we’ve got these empty properties.
“I think this is the best thing we could do. And it should have come a bit sooner I think.”
The proposals were approved following a vote.