Industrial-scale tax avoidance and political influence by second homers must be stopped

Posted on: 19th January 2018

Former MP and housing campaigner, Andrew George, (who led the campaign to get rid of the Council Tax subsidy for second home owners nearly twenty years ago) is calling on Cornwall Council and the Government to clamp down on what he calls “industrial scale tax avoidance” and “preferential electoral influence” by second home owners in Cornwall.

Figures requested of Cornwall Council by Mr George back in July last year have just emerged and show that Cornwall is losing out on 10s of millions of pounds, not only in lost Council Tax income, but through other lawful loopholes.

Mr George had campaigned to have these closed before 2015 but was halted by the Conservatives in the Coalition Government. (See Western Morning News Property pages cutting from 5th August 2017 to see how second home investors see their prospects)

Mr George is 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 where they deploy their vote. That means for example they can switch their vote from a safe conservative seat in the South East to instead help the Conservative candidate in west Cornwall where the results last time were very marginal. Mr George believes the Conservative majority of 312 in St. Ives could well be more than accounted for by second home voters.

Mr George said, “It is astounding that this is allowed to carry on. I’m also astounded that the Council has been so dilatory in responding to my request for the essential data needed to take this important campaign forward and instead gifted the material to the Labour Party to run a campaign instead. (Good on the Labour Party for taking it up. But they need to understand that the problem is far worse than they realise).

“The Council faces massive cuts to its budget thanks to cruel and unfair cuts by the Conservative Government. But the exploitation of this loophole just makes it far worse. The Tories are fully aware of these loopholes. I’ve been telling them about it for years but they’re just not interested. They know this is an important voter base for them, so they’d rather turn a blind eye.

“I just wonder how many of the Conservative’s majority in seats like St Ives are in fact absent second homers who know they have a greater influence on the election here than they would in a safe Tory seat where they actually live?”