Plans by the government to change council tax discounts on second homes may see an overall tax burden increase of £420m for second home owners across the UK.

If changes proposed by Lib Dem Communities minister Andrew Stunell go ahead, the discount currently given on second homes may be scrapped, and properties that have been left vacant for more than two years may be subject to an up-to-50% council tax increase.

The proposals are designed to free up more housing. Estimates for the number of homes currently standing empty in the UK are thought to be more than 700,000.

The proposals will no doubt be met with disappointment by those who own a second home, which, if they go through, are likely to compel all but the very wealthiest of property owners to rent out their property.

Nationally, long term property discounts are £382m, according to government figures. Last year, 246,000 properties were eligible for second home discounts, totalling £42m across the UK, with Cornwall discounting the most.

For those who enjoy their second property or who do not wish to rent it out – which may well include many of our second home insurance customers – the news may be very unwelcome indeed, if alterations to second home discounts go ahead.