OWNERS of second homes in Helensburgh and Lomond could find themselves in line for a significantly bigger council tax bill.

The news comes after members of Argyll and Bute Council agreed to write to the Scottish Government backing a plan to give local authorities the power to remove the discount if they wish.

Councillors say there should be no council tax discount at all for second and empty homes in Argyll and Bute – and that having the power to increase council tax on such properties could ease the pressure on the area’s property market.

But a Helensburgh councillor has admitted that removing the discount could damage the tourism economy as well as hitting property owners in the pocket.

The council says there are around 3,000 second homes in Argyll and Bute, making up 6.2 per cent – or more than 1 in 20 properties – of the council tax register.

That figure is higher than any other local authority in Scotland and much higher than the national average of 0.9 per cent.

The Scottish Government is running a consultation on changes to the council tax set-up for second homes and empty properties, as well as on the threshold for non-domestic rates.

Helensburgh Central Conservative councillor Gary Mulvaney, Argyll and Bute’s deputy leader and its policy lead for financial services and major projects, said: “Giving local authorities the power to increase council tax on second homes could help to ease the pressure on the local housing market and generate additional income for local services.

“It could help with economic fairness and long-term rental opportunities, whilst assisting more our residents in getting on the property ladder.

“Increasing council tax on these properties in Argyll and Bute could result in an additional income of £4 million – money that could be used to help fund essential services, infrastructure development, and community projects.

“There are, however, some disadvantages to increasing council tax, such as the impact it will have on property owners and the local tourism economy, and these are things which would need careful consideration if we were to go down that route.”

The consultation is running until July 11 and is available on the Scottish Government website at consult.gov.scot.