THE number of long-term empty homes across Wiltshire has been slashed by 20 per cent since 2010, according to new figures.

Throughout the county there were 1,376 houses that had been left empty for more than six months as of 2016, statistics from the BBC’s new data unit have revealed.

From 2010 to 2016, the number of long-term empty homes - defined as unfurnished and unoccupied for more than six months - fell from around 1,700.

Despite this drop, Wiltshire still has one of the highest rates of empty houses for its size across all 361 local authority areas.

Meanwhile, in Hampshire the number of empty homes has fallen by over 30 per cent with 2,880 vacant properties recorded in 2016.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: “We monitor all long term empty homes and will look to encourage owners of empty properties to return them to use.

“Not only are empty properties a waste of resources at a time when demand for housing is high, they can also have a considerable effect on the surrounding area.

“If any member of the public has concerns or would like to report an empty home in Wiltshire they can complete our online report.

“We always follow up on the empty properties reported to us so we can encourage the owners to work with us to bring them back into use.”

Since October 2016, Wiltshire Council has taken advantage of the government’s powers to charge an additional 50 per cent levy on top of the normal council tax, for properties that have been empty for two years or more.

Since introducing the tariff the council has made more than £300,000 from the levy and is expected to make a similar sum in 2017/18.

In the future, the council could boost the amount it collects on empty homes following the announcement from chancellor Philip Hammond to let local authorities charge a 100 per cent council tax premium on vacant properties.

Helen Williams from the Empty Homes charity added: “The chancellor’s announcement recognises the importance of taking action, however it is unlikely to be a sufficient enough deterrent for some wealthy investor-buyers; a more thorough review of what would stop people from buying properties to leave empty, or hardly every used, is needed.”

The council previously offered grants of up to £20,000 towards repairs to empty properties but withdrew the scheme last year due to “financial constraints”.