COUNCILLORS have agreed to end council tax discounts on long-term empty homes in Newport from April after a debate which turned heated.

The city council voted to stop a 50 per cent council tax discount on homes lying empty from April 1 next year, in a move intended to bring empty properties back into use, at a full council meeting on Tuesday.

The policy was welcomed by councillors across the political divide.

But the debate turned heated when Cllr David Fouweather (Conservative, Allt-yr-yn ward) called on the council to make more use of a Welsh Government loan intended to help home owners bring properties back into use.

Cllr Fouweather, who said he supported the new policy, asked how many properties had been brought into use under the loan since 2012 but chairman, Cllr Malcolm Linton, said it was not a question and answer session.

When Cllr Linton said the Conservative councillor had already spoken in the debate, Cllr Fouweather insisted he had not spoken for three minutes as allowed, telling the chairman: "I sat in that chair, I know the rules."

Cllr Fouweather went on to say that only 24 properties had been brought back into use under the scheme.

Leader of the council, Cllr Debbie Wilcox, called for an apology following the episode.

"I am appalled by this rudeness towards you and towards the office of the mayor," she said.

"Cllr Fouweather was certainly not treated like this when he was mayor.

"This is appalling, he needs to apologise to you."

The meeting heard that currently 1,061 owners of empty properties receive a 50 per cent discount on council tax in Newport.

Cllr Jane Mudd, cabinet member for regeneration and housing, said it is hoped the policy will encourage owners to bring empty properties back into use.

"It cannot be fair that owners who have taken the decision to leave their properties vacant while they live elsewhere are given a discount," she said, calling empty homes a 'blight' on communities.

Cllr Chris Evans (Newport Independent Party, Rogerstone) also said he supported the move, adding that pressure should also be put on social landlords to bring empty homes into use.

Ending the discount is estimated to increase overall income from council tax by £580,000.

Out of the money generated, it is proposed to invest £190,000 in four new posts and enable a "more co-ordinated and robust approach and liaison" with owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use.

This will include tougher enforcement action where there are council tax arrears, to maximise the financial incentive of the change.

It will also include offering owners help to access grants and loans to bring homes back into use, with short-term repayable grants part of the offer.