Cornwall: Government confirms there are 'no plans' to charge second home owners

St Ives is a popular destination for second home owners.

The former leader of Cornwall Council said he is disappointed after a government minister said there were no plans to let councils charge second home owners extra council tax.

Julian German, who was leader of the council before the May elections, held a meeting with Eddie Hughes MP, minister for rough sleeping and housing.

Cllr German spoke to the MP with fellow independent councillor Andrew Mitchell who was then Cornwall Council Cabinet member for housing.

They met to highlight the work the local authority had done to protect homeless people in Cornwall during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the two councillors also took the opportunity to follow-up the meeting by writing to the minister and asking whether the Government would consider giving local councils the power to charge second home owners extra council tax.

They argue this would help cover the cost of providing essential housing in the county.

Great Western Beach, Newquay Credit: PA images

In Wales the Welsh Parliament has given local councils the power to charge second home owners extra council tax, particularly to help those areas popular with tourists.

Mr Hughes responded to Cllr German and explained there were no plans to allow councils in England to have such powers.

“I note your concern about the impact of second home ownership in Cornwall and appreciate your suggestion of allowing authorities to charge an additional council tax premium on second homes that are empty for much of the year," he said.

“The Government believes it is right that councils should be able to charge a premium on long-term empty properties, in order to strengthen the incentive for owners of empty homes to bring them back into use.

“However there are no plans to allow authorities to charge a premium on second homes. Councils have already got the freedom to charge the full rate of council tax on those properties, notwithstanding that the owners will not be accessing local services to the same degree as local residents.”

Cllr German said he was disappointed by the response: “The housing crisis has a number of different issues and we want to be able to make sure that local people can be housed.

“The Welsh Parliament has given local councils the powers to charge 150% on second homes and they have been able to put that money back into helping homelessness and providing accommodation.

“The response we have is thanks for raising it but the Government has no plans to charge a premium on second homes.

“Unless there is real change and government legislation giving council powers to take control this housing crisis will only continue.

“It is really disappointing. The minister also said that the Government plans to close the loophole which allows people to avoid paying council tax and business rates on holiday homes but it is still in the long grass and there is no indication when that might happen.”

Cllr Mitchell said that if Cornwall was able to charge second home owners extra council tax then the money could be ring-fenced and only used to fund housing schemes.

“I was quite disappointed with the response, we thought it was a good way of helping the situation. It wouldn’t solve the problems but it would certainly help," he said.

“But I fear that it is an indication of the Government’s attitude – we need to do something to help ease the housing crisis and one of the things which will be needed is more funding.”

Credit: Richard Whitehouse, The Local Democracy Reporting Service

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