A second homes council tax campaign group has said the "unaffordable" premium for such properties is forcing their owners into debt, a letter sent to Pembrokeshire County Council has said.

The second homes council tax premium in Pembrokeshire increased to 200 per cent for this financial year, from a previous 100 per cent, meaning such properties effectively now pay a treble rate.

Properties used as holiday lets were exempt from the premium if they could be let over a number of days per year, which has risen to 182, up from a previous 70.

Since the premium rise, second home-owners have been faced with hefty council tax bills, as much as £15,000 in some cases.

The letter, signed by 100 members of the Pembrokeshire Council Tax Premium support group, says: “In April when most of us received our council tax bills with their grossly inflated rates. Most of us have a council tax bill of £5,000 to over £12,000 for 2024/2025. This is unaffordable.

“Given that your stated goal is to make us sell our properties, it is logical for you to have make the tax unaffordable.

“Only 29 per cent of our members received notice of the increase, and no effort was made to contact owners outside the area as is advised. Most knew about the premium increase when they received their 2024/2025 council tax bill.

"This oversight has made it impossible to ‘consider the impact of a higher premium on their own personal financial circumstances and make choices regarding their property’.”

At the March meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, members heard the county is facing nearly £9m in council tax arrears, in part due to an “unprecedented bloc” of some 90 homes unable to meet the 182-day holiday letting guidelines, leaving their owners liable for second homes premium rates.

At that meeting the-then Cabinet member for corporate finance Cllr Alec Cormack said there were seven classes of “exception rather than exemption” from the premium.

He said anyone in arrears should contact the revenues and benefits team, which was reaching payments plans for such circumstances.

The letter to the council added: “There is now a delay in the council offices in the processing of these applications for exceptions- as people try to avoid going into debt. People are being forced into that situation. Applications from April 17 for example, have not been processed and people have received pink/red bills and reminders causing great stress and concern.

“Many have contacted the benefits and welfare office, as was suggested by Councillor Cormack, and are either cut off after lengthy waits or are told that there is nothing that can be done. Some are saying that this is a conveniently manufactured way of continuing to milk the cash cow.

“Pursuing the goal of maximising income from this group of people who have contributed for seven years towards developing the housing stock, with nothing to show for it can best be described as thoughtless and at worst a deliberate attempt to ‘Stuff those who cannot vote,’ as one councillor described the arrangement.

“People are being placed in debt by the actions of the PCC. This must stop.”

Pembrokeshire County Council has been contacted for a response.