CASH-strapped Dudley Council has been criticised for putting a “tax on death” to raise £1.3 million a year after the authority approved new council tax rules.

The leader of Dudley’s opposition Conservative group fears the change will affect bereaved families trying to sell thehomesof dead relatives.

A full meeting of the council this week agreed to scrap the council tax exemption on properties that have been empty for less than six months, including after the death of the occupier.

Councillor Les Jones said: “It’s a tax on death,” adding: “People going through bereavement will be slapped with a bill from the council they can’t challenge. It is a charge on the estate but, if there is no cash, the family will have to pick up the bill.”

From next April, the new regulations will also mean the end of the 10percent council taxdiscount on second homes, the scrapping of the exemption on empty properties that need or are undergoing major renovation to make them habitable and the addition of a 50 per cent premium charge to properties which have been empty for more than two years, to raise a further £200,000 a year.

The changes were approved at a bad-tempered Dudley Council meeting on Monday which saw politicians clash over a revenue budget strategy report which included the controversial council tax changes.

Cllr Jones told the meeting: “This report reinforces the view the current administration is lazy, naive, dogmatic and borderline incompetent.”

Labour’s Cllr Dave Branwood hit back, saying he had heard a lot of “waffle and bile” from the Tories.

He added: “The people of Dudley don’t trust the nasty party – end of story.”

Council finance supremo Cllr Pete Lowe defended the council tax changes, blaming the Government for grant cuts which force local authorities to make drastic reductions in spending.

He said the council was working hard to minimise the impact of cuts on frontline services.

“We have to make very difficult decisions, there is very little good news,” he added.