Campaign to halt tax-dodging Second Homes must go all the way – Demo on Saturday

Campaign to halt tax-dodging Second Homes must go all the way - join Saturday's demo

This Saturday a demonstration in west Cornwall will call for more action on the curse of second homes in our communities and call for a change in the law that would allow local authorities to charge extra tax on holiday lets and second homes.  Protesters say this extra money should be ringfenced to build much needed social housing for local residents in the area.

The idea to raise money by clamping down on the tax dodge has cross party support and the campaign has momentum. A motion at the last council meeting, proposed by the Labour group was thrown out for being incorrectly worded. The Liberal Democrats have now raised a new motion for Full Council asking for the powers to close the tax loopholes to be included in our Devolution Deal.

The motion will ask Government to devolve to it the powers to “control the change of use of residential properties (through planning) and ensure that all holiday lets and second home owners pay their fair share of charges for local services”.
The new proposal is suggesting that all Holiday Lets in Cornwall should be registered for Council Tax rather than Business Rates. It also proposes that any change in the use of a house, from full time residence to holiday home, must be subject to planning controls.
The new motion to Council;

Cornwall Council calls on the Government to devolve to it the powers to control the change of use of residential properties (through planning) and ensure that all pay their fair share of charges for local services. It further commits to campaign for these powers.

Cornwall Council notes that the law presently permits thousands of second home owners to avoid paying a fair share of Council Tax and Business Rates to the detriment of legitimate businesses, local residents, council tax payers and public services

Campaigners will be marching from Mousehole to Penzance on Saturday, meeting at Mousehole Harbour at 10am, Newlyn Green at 10.45 and the bottom of Causeway Head at 11am. The petition will be handed to Derek Thomas who has shown interest in taking up the issue in Parliament. Everyone is welcome to join the march and you can join in wherever you like if you don’t fancy the whole stank.



Since the 50% discount on Council tax for holiday lets and second homes was abolished, the vast majority of lets are now registered for Business Rates, and with most being small cottages can then claim small business rates relief, meaning they pay very little tax on their properties, or even none at all.
 Mousehole
Alana Bates, newly elected Penzance town councillor (Lab) is one of the demonstration organisers. She said:
“A petition has been collected in towns across West Cornwall, from Newlyn and Mousehole to St Just and Porthleven. In all places people feel very strongly about the issue.
“There are currently over 900 people on the council house waiting list in Penzance alone. But just down the road in Mousehole over 50% of the houses are used for leisure purposes. The cost of privately renting property in Penzance is out of step with the low wages most families earn here. There has to be a solution to the housing crisis we are facing, and we believe money raised from this extra taxation could pay for genuinely affordable social housing for local residents.”
The Portfolio Holder for Resources at Cornwall Council (Cllr Julian German) recently calculated there were currently 7,707 holiday lets in Cornwall that they know about, of which 6,065 received Small Business Rate Relief so did not pay any business rates. The true number of lets and second homes is not known.
The rise in the number of properties being used as second homes has affected many towns and villages across Cornwall, with some making the St Ives rule  – ‘no new built properties should be sold as second homes’ – part of their neighbourhood plan.
 
Local resident Mark Semmens describes the impact second homes is having on families from Mousehole: “My family has lived in Mousehole for generations but there’s no way my brother or I could afford a house in the village we were brought up in and I’m lucky enough to be on a decent wage for this part of the country. I’ve watched all the older generation pass away and then their property is swept up by either a company who then rent it out as a holiday home or some extremely affluent individuals from a big city somewhere who buy it to live in it for a month a year collectively.

Any local businesses struggle now as fewer and fewer people actually live there whereas before the general store or post office used to be the go to for the whole community.”

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“Invest in local first homes: Clamp-down on tax-dodging second homes”
Ex MP for West Cornwall Andrew George, who successfully led the campaign to remove the Council Tax subsidy for second homes said his campaign to clamp-down on the wide and much flaunted tax avoidance opportunities for second home owners must now be answered by Government ministers.

Listen:

“Campaign to halt tax-dodging Second Homes must go all the way” – George

 

Andrew George

Mr George says in the clip: If the rich under-occupy their second home the Conservatives reward them – with massive tax avoidance loopholes. But if the poor are deemed to under occupy their council home they penalise them with the ‘bedroom tax’!

 RELATED

This week Cornwall Council received a fresh motion calling on the Government to grant Cornwall the powers to control the growth and taxation of second homes. The motion at last full council was thrown out for not having the correct wording.

Mr George welcomed this but said that the campaign must go even further. He said:

“It is of course very good to see the Council, including Cabinet members, making a cogent case for powers to control second homes and to make sure that they pay a fair share of taxes, something it is clear the majority of them don’t do at present.

“The Conservatives know full well there are transparent multi-million pound tax loop-holes which operate to the significant advantage of second home owners and to the detriment of local businesses, the taxpayer, local services and locals in housing need.”

Figures provided to Mr George by Cornwall Council in response to questions he raised last July revealed that the council tax to small business tax relief use alone cost the public purse over £10 million each year. That’s without adding the many other lawful tax-dodging methods known to be used by second homers.

The money that local authorities miss out on because of Small Business Rate Relief is given back to local councils by central government.

Mr George had campaigned to have these loopholes closed before 2015 but was halted by the Conservatives.

“The tax loop-holes go much wider than just council tax and business rates.

“I’m also highlighting that many second homers enjoy the privilege of a much greater and “morally unjustifiable” influence on the outcome of elections as they can choose the constituency in which they deploy their vote. This means for example that they can switch their vote from a safe conservative seat in the South East to instead help the Conservative candidate here in west Cornwall where the results last time were very marginal. I’ve asked the Council if they keep records of patterns of second homers both registering to vote here and then voting in General Elections.

“Cornwall Council faces massive cuts to its vital services as a result of the cruel and unfair cuts by the Conservative Government. But the exploitation of these second home tax loopholes just make Cornwall’s dire situation far worse. The Tories are fully aware of these loopholes. I’ve been telling them about it for years. But they’ve shown no interested. I think they see second homers as an important voter base for them, so they’d rather turn a blind eye.”

The Council motion proposes a change to planning law which would permit local authorities to require second home buyers to apply for planning permission to ‘convert’ a local home to be used as a second home (for “non-permanent occupancy”). This is a long-standing Liberal Democrat policy which would provide a stronger framework on which other taxation policies would be better managed and enforced”

Mr George will join a protest march on Saturday morning 10th Feb 2018, from Mousehole to Penzance and has launched a petition of his own to back the call for greater powers to control second homes.



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