PEOPLE whose homes were left uninhabitable after being flooded by torrential rain last summer will not have to pay council tax for a year.

Rochford District Council voted unanimously to waive the fee for those affected in Rayleigh, Hockley, Hawkwell and Rochford at its latest meeting.

Among those to benefit are the Phillips family, who are still in rented accommodation as their home in Fairmead, Rayleigh, remains uninhabitable.

A number of nearby houses were also severely damaged.

Graham Phillips, 52, said: “They said we would get the money off for a year, then they said it would only be until April and I complained about that.

“So I’m pleased they’ve changed the plan. Whoever’s idea it was, I’m just glad it’s happening.

It’s very good news.”

The family are currently repairing their property after only recently receiving an insurance payout for the damage.

They expect the work will take a few more weeks. Johanna Parker, 38, also of Fairmead, had to move to rented accommodation with her husband, Graham, and their three children after their house was damaged in the floods.

She said: “I’m very pleased to hear about it. It felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth when we got a letter saying we would have to pay 50 per cent from April. So it’s good news.”

Residents were exempt from paying the tax from August because their property was empty, but national changes to council tax discounts meant they would have to pay 50 per cent from April. However, the council vote ensures it can last a year.

Malcolm Maddocks, councillor responsible for council tax, said: “I am glad we can offer this discount to take some of the pressure off those people whose homes were flooded last August.

“It is has clearly been a very traumatic time for those who have had to leave their homes while repair work is carried out, and I hope this will go some way to alleviating the strain.”

The waiving of the fee will be for the period from last August until this August and covers 34 properties.

ROCHFORD residents will see council tax bills go up by around £4 next year.

Rochford District Council voted to raise its share of the charge by 1.89 per cent. It means a band D home will have to pay £3.87 more a year on its bill as a result. It follows Essex County Council and the fire service freezing their portion of the tax for 2014/15.

The average increase by parish and town councils across the district is 1.6 per cent, adding around another 63p to a band D bill.

The Essex Police and Crime Commissioner is putting up his precept by 1.97 per cent, around another £3.10 year for a band D property.

Terry Cutmore, leader of the Tory council, said a consultation showed many residents wanted services maintained.

He added: “Therefore, in light of cuts from central Government, we have made this difficult decision so that we can continue to provide the high level of service residents have come to expect."