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'National scandal' of 11,000 UK homes standing empty for more than a decade

Thousands of properties up and down the country could be made available, the Lib Dems believe (In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

More than 11,000 homes in the UK have stood empty for more than a decade, new research shows.

The figures, from 276 local councils and supplied to the Liberal Democrats, show there are more than 216,000 homes across the country which have been empty for six months or more.

Durham had the most empty homes (6,500) followed by Leeds (5,724), Bradford (4,144), Cornwall (3,273) and Liverpool (3,093).

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The data also showed that 60,000 properties had been empty for two years or more and 23,000 for five years or more.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said the figures, revealed at a time when homelessness was rising and as tens of thousands of people were struggling to find suitable housing, was a “national scandal”.

The huge fire that engulfed the 24 storey residential Grenfell Tower in West London claimed more than 70 lives and left hundreds homeless (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Just 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded to the Freedom of Information request said they had used powers under an Empty Dwelling Management Orders in the past five years.

EDMOs allow councils in England and Wales to take over residential properties that have been empty for six months or more. EDMOs do not apply in Scotland.

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“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working,” Cable said.

The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster last year revealed the scale of unoccupied homes. Kensington and Chelsea council inadvertently released data that showed some 1,652 properties were empty but that they were owned by various oligarchs, foreign royalty and multimillionaire businesspeople.

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In December, a committee of MPs reported more than 78,000 families were living in temporary accommodation in England.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said that powers had been given to councils to bring empty homes back into use.