Councillors in West Devon have voted in favour of removing the 10 per cent council tax discount for people who own a second homes.

This move affects around 560 properties, which will now pay the full 100 per cent of council tax. They also backed proposals to change discounts given to people who own uninhabitable or vacant properties.

A 50 council tax premium would also be charged on properties that remain empty for more than two years to encourage them to be brought back into use.

The leader of West Devon Borough Council has also warned hat plans to protect the most vulnerable people from paying more council tax can only be a temporary measure.

Cllr Philip Sanders said, following a meeting of the council on Tuesday (December 11), that tough decisions will have to be made in future years about the level of help available to people on the lowest incomes.

The council backed a series of measures to protect vulnerable residents from having to pay more towards their council tax bill in 2013-14, while supporting the Government's desire to break the culture of life on benefits.

However, the decision is subject to a Government announcement later this month (December) on how much the council's financial grant for 2013-14 will be.

All councils have been tasked with designing a localised council tax support scheme to replace the current system which comes to an end in April 2013.

Around 2,000 working age households in the borough, who currently claim the council tax benefit, faced a cut of up to 25% on top of a raft of further cuts to other welfare benefits, as part of Government reforms.

The Borough Council also loses more than £500,000 in Government funding when the benefits system ends.

Pensioners and people with disabilities are automatically protected from any increase as part of the changes.

Cllr Sanders said: "I support the Government's efforts to make the welfare system fairer but at the same time it is important to protect the most vulnerable.

"The measures we are putting in place for 2013-14 will give those on low incomes a further year to adjust to the changes that will have to be made in 2014-15 if the current Government scheme remains unchanged.

"We are giving West Devon residents 12 months breathing space before reviewing the council tax support system, which will inevitably mean making some tough decisions."

A recent Council consultation identified that 47% of its residents agreed that everyone should pay something towards their council tax.

The council will also apply for extra funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government to help with the transition to a localised council tax support scheme. This funding is only available to councils who protect the most vulnerable.