DESPITE there being about 1,000 empty homes in the borough, Bournemouth council has never used powers allowing it to take temporary ownership of properties.

Empty dwelling management orders were introduced in 2006 to make it easier for English councils to take possession of disused houses.

At Tuesday’s meeting of Bournemouth council, its cabinet member for housing said that the authority had never made use of the power, instead preferring “a combination of advice and support”.

Nationally, orders were used only 17 times in 2014 and have been criticised by councils which say they are too complex to use.

In October, Bournemouth council estimated that there were just under 1,000 empty homes in the borough based on council tax data.

On Tuesday, Cllr Lawton was questioned about the work the authority was doing to tackle the problem and bring houses back into use.

“The figure of empty homes is not static,” he said. “It is also important to note that the majority will be empty for legitimate reasons.

“Bringing those that aren’t back into use is important and there are ways for us to do that.

“We have not used empty dwelling management orders but use a combination of advice and support.

“In the last year, officers have undertaken over 300 visits and 298 properties have been brought back into use.”

He added that in many cases issues arose when homes were passed on in wills but the recipients were unaware that ownership had been passed on to them.

In one instance, council housing officers tracked down the unwitting owner of one of the borough’s empty homes to Malaysia.

From next month, the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council will be able to charge an increased council tax rate on properties which have been vacant for more than two years.

The figure of 998 empty homes was recorded by Bournemouth council on October 1.

Government figures for Poole, show 514 properties are classified as being long-term vacant.