Conservative arsonist Gove promises bucket to deal with the housing conflagration

Posted on: 15th February 2024


If the Conservatives were genuinely concerned about the housing emergency they’d have taken action a decade ago. That’s what Liberal Democrat candidate, former MP, housing professional and campaigner, Andrew George, said on the eve of an anticipated visit by Housing secretary Michael Gove to Cornwall.

“He no doubt hopes no one will notice he’s the arsonist promising a bucket to quell his conflagration; and hope people won’t notice this’ll be the umpteenth re-announcement of the promised bucket – a limp solution to the injustices they’ve inflicted on the thousands of families suffering from the desperate housing plight.

“Conservatives have thrown petrol on the flames of the housing emergency. For example, they’ve already pumped over £400 million of taxpayers’ money into the pockets of Cornwall’s holiday home owners for over a decade; twice as much as they’ve granted to those (like me in my day job) attempting to build secure affordable first homes for locals.

“I first pointed out the injustice of this particular tax loophole (there are many others) in 2012; a loophole which permits second homers to flip to holiday letting and then avoid paying either business rates or council tax. We finally shamed the Conservatives into promising they’d stop this back in 2018. But tax loopholes for the wealthy are not as important to the Tories as dog-whistle politics, curtailing free speech and their fantasy flights to Rwanda. So, they’ve not actually done anything about it. Just regurgitated announcements – usually just before elections – about promising to do something.

“What they’ve promised won’t work anyway. Requiring evidence that the homes are actually let for at least 70 days per annum will be easily got ’round. Doubling council tax on second homes won’t work on its own as it will drive even more second homers to flip to register as a holiday letting business, thus negating the intended effect. The plan to introduce a new planning use class is a pale and ineffectual imitation of the Liberal Democrats’ long standing policy to insist that all ‘non-permanent occupancy’ use – not just holiday letting – would need a separate planning permission.

“If chief arsonist, Mr Gove, expects to be thanked for promising a bucket to put out the fire he’s poured petrol on for the past decade, he’s either deluded or has Johnsonian-level respect for the truth.

– ends –

1. Andrew George successfully led the parliamentary campaign to stop the 50% council tax discount for second homes introduced by the Conservatives in the 1990s and was first to blow the whistle on the many tax loopholes available for holiday home owners to exploit back in 2012.

2. Andrew published a recent report on Housing Injustice in Cornwall (enclosed). This exposes the alarming extent of the different statutory and tax treatment between holiday and second homes and the effort to deliver secure and affordable homes for the growing thousands of local families in housing need.

3. Since this report was published he’s obtained recent updated figures on tax subsidy for holiday home owners in Cornwall which shows that the amount of taxpayers’ money deployed to cover the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) on holiday homes in Cornwall has increased from £142,573,599.80 at end 2022 to £165,334,974.85 at end 2023.

3. Andrew can be contacted on 07779224031