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 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
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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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’!
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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.