Parliamentary sketch – homing in on a key issue
About 30 years ago I was urging political leaders to take action to counter the growth of second home ownership and the detrimental impact it was having on our local communities. I had proposed a new planning law which would give local communities the chance to put a cap on numbers. It’s good to see that support for this has gathered over the years. We’ll achieve this eventually, but we’re not quite there yet.
I recently took the opportunity to again revisit and walk some of the areas I frequented during my upbringing here in West Cornwall. This included ‘Downalong’, St Ives and the coast from Loe Bar Road to Breageside at Porthleven.
These places may not have changed much physically, but the number and extent of second and holiday homes is very shocking for those of us who remember how these areas used to be. Places which used to be a neighbourhood of local families had been hollowed out, gentrified and made alien.
I often survey the record of local estate agencies. The last time I did a few years ago it showed that four times more local homes were sold to second home buyers as to first time buyers! The proposed planning regulation to cap the number of second homes which I have long made the case for has been thwarted by a succession of both Labour and Conservative Ministers…so far.
Many more people with investment capital are now cottoning on to the massive tax loopholes I had been warning about as a new MP in 1997; which encourage the trade in our homes to second home buyers. Then I had been a sole voice complaining that the previous Conservative Government had left us with a system which meant that hundreds of £millions of taxpayers money was being spent subsidising the wealthy second homers through a Council Tax rebate when there were thousands of local families who couldn’t afford their first home.
And they could rake in money from letting them to the holiday trade for up to 120 nights a year! Or they could get their tax lawyers onto it and switch to Business Rates for tax deduction purposes. In recent years there’s been an added loophole, the Small Business Rate Relief which entitles many to pay nothing!
Shocking? It gets worse, especially for hotel proprietors and other legitimate accommodation businesses who compete for the same visitor trade. But they do it with both hands tied behind their backs, as they are obliged to charge 20% VAT whilst their second home owning competitors don’t!
As you know I’ve been leading the charge in Parliament against the (Conservative side of the) Government’s despised ‘Bedroom Tax’, where poor families are effectively penalised if they ‘under-occupy’ their modest council house. The Bedroom Tax was of course first introduced into the private rented sector by the last Labour Government, but they’d prefer that you forgot that!
So, as the poor are penalised by the Conservatives if they under occupy their only home the wealthy are rewarded by them if they under occupy their desirable second home!
This cannot be fair and should not go on. This is not the politics of envy, but a simple case of achieving basic justice and fair treatment for all.
You can contact Andrew George by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His constituency office can be contacted at Trewella, 18 Mennaye Road, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4NG. Telephone: 01736 360020.
Andrew George MP
Kernow a’n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Constituency of St Ives
Tel: 01736 360020
Fax: 01736 332866
16th September 2014