Holidays over, and we get the place to ourselves again. The visitors have enjoyed their Christmas break in Cornwall and gone back up the line. Many families will have enjoyed a stay in a self catering holiday cottage for the week.
We hope they had a lovely time and they come back again. But what have they left behind? Well as you pass the empty cottages this week, please note how many of these properties leave there rubbish and recycling out to be collected by Cornwall’s bin men. Pretty much all of them, right?
Well actually, what they are doing is illegal and has been since 2012. A holiday cottage is a business and therefore should have a trade waste contract. But we all know that hardly any of them do and the rest abuse the system and expect Cornish taxpayers to pick up the bill. What does it matter? Well as the council are finalising their budget, making cuts here there and everywhere, looking for revenue streams wherever they can, it’s estimated that the holiday cottage waste issue could be costing Cornwall up to £2.5 million pounds a year, or £48,000 a week.
According to the Council’s own figures, the cost of refuse and recycling collections in 2017/18 is approximately £39.50 per household, (Band B average) which is the cost of collecting waste and recycling from the kerbside, not disposal or the associated costs of running the kerbside collection service.
The Council’s waste budget is approximately £57m, which covers all aspects of waste management including kerbside collection and disposal of waste, recycling and clinical waste, as well as street and beach cleansing, litter bin collections and management of Household Waste Recycling Centres, recycling banks and landfill sites. This works out at approximately £209 per household per year to deal with Cornwall’s rubbish. Presumably the holiday let owners want the streets and beaches cleaned too for the benefit of their guests?
No one knows how many holiday cottages there are in Cornwall but the best guess is around 12,000. (£2.5 million = 12,000 x £209). The true cost is unknown.
So isn’t it time that tourism was made to pay its way? Many holiday lets get away without paying very little tax at all. To avoid paying council tax now the 50% subsidy has gone, many swapped to Business Rates, and now claim small business rates relief.
“By law, holiday lets and self-catering accommodation are not permitted to use the Council’s household collection service. The Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012 set out how councils must deal with waste from holiday lets and self-catering accommodation. The legislation says that these premises are businesses and should pay for a commercial waste service, including collection and disposal charges. This definition applies regardless of whether the premises are liable for business rates or council tax” a council spokesperson told us.
St Just & Pendeen Liberal Democrat Councillor and cabinet member Sue James has been leading the inquiry into a new waste contract for Cornwall.
In her own blog published in June 2016 Cllr James herself wrote “Cornwall Council is aware that many affected by the changes still put their rubbish out with domestic rubbish for collection which costs the Council and at these times of harsh Government cuts, this cannot continue.” But continue is precisely what has been happening.
Cllr James explained back in 2016 “The Council initially wrote to schools, nursing homes, residential homes hospitals, charities, clubs and societies advising them of the changes to the legislation and outlining their responsibilities.
Implementing the second phase, which includes waste from camp sites, self-catering accommodation and guest houses, has proved more complex. The scale of self-catering accommodation and guest homes in Cornwall, plus the added complication of second homes that are hard to tell apart from holiday lets has made it tough to get the message out and enforce the change”
So charities, nursing homes and schools have to pay their way but not rich holiday let owners? Here we are 18 months after those words were written but with no sign publicly of a phase two.
“We are working with letting agents to identify properties of this nature and will also be considering options for provision of a user pays commercial service for holiday lets and self-catering accommodation in the new 2020 waste contract” the council told us – which means they could offer the service to holiday let owners for a fee. This would be the path of least resistance and would generate significant income for the Council. But why wait until 2020? This has been a known issue for several years but there has been very little action. In 2016 there was an investigation at Port Issac where only 3 properties in the village were found to have trade contracts, which was increased to 178 after the study! And that is just one village in Cornwall.
Cllr James says that if you report a holiday cottage then the council will investigate but to date there has not been one prosecution. She says ‘quick fixes’ often lead to ‘costly unintended consequences’ and blamed the situation on a legacy left over from the District councils, that were abolished in 2009. She also told us (via Twitter), when accused of inaction that:
“We have medium/long term plans but if I make public that undermines them! Police & HMRC don’t warn of future operations! I’ll make it clear – all business enterprises, inc those run from a dwelling, must not use domestic waste collections – includes B&B & holiday lets!”
Just before Christmas, a Labour MP for north London introduced a private members bill suggesting that there should be a register of all rented accommodation.
Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North was mostly thinking about AirBnB when she introduced the “Short and Holiday-Let Accommodation (Notification of Local Authorities)” Bill that would “require householders to notify local authorities of an intention to register accommodation for short or holiday lets; and for connected purposes”.
Cornish Stuff has contacted several let agencies for information on their company policies and we are awaiting responses.