Cornwall Council paid holiday home owners almost £170m in Covid grants

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Many holiday lets are registered as businesses which means owners can claim small business rates relief and Covid grants. Credit: PA

Almost £170million was paid out in Covid-19 grants to holiday let businesses in Cornwall - with more than half of that money going to people who live outside the county.

New details about the amount of money claimed by holiday let owners were revealed during a meeting of Cornwall Council.

A number of public questions focused on the issue of holiday lets claiming business rates relief as well as how much was claimed in grants during the Covid-19 lockdown.

It was revealed business rate relief amounts to £17million - but the council does not lose out on money as the funding is covered by central Government.

Councillors also heard nearly £170million in coronavirus grants was given to holiday home owners - with almost 62% of those people living outside of the Duchy.

There has been a chorus of disapproval about the number of holiday lets which are registered as businesses and then claim small business rates relief. This then results in them not paying any council tax or business rates.

Councillors and MPs have been battling for years to close the loophole to ensure holiday let owners can start to contribute towards the cost of local services.

Speaking at the meeting, the council's deputy leader David Harris said: “On an overall basis Cornwall Council does not lose out where second homes qualify for business rates then get small business rates relief as all these various reliefs and the Covid grants come from central Government.

“However we do not believe that it is right that this broad exemption should exist in its current form and we have already asked central government for greater tax raising powers here. Apart from anything else, these properties do not pay local or police precepts which is just wrong and unfair on everyone else.

“In relation to the Covid grants, I made very strong representations at the time that these should not just be paid out automatically to these holiday let businesses and that there was a technical wording that backed up my argument, unfortunately civil servants in London didn’t agree with me and I got nowhere.”

The meeting heard there are currently 13,255 second homes recorded on the council tax database. There are 11,081 holiday lets registered for business rates, with 8,953 getting business rates relief and 8,869 paying no business rates.

I was revealed 61.8% of the holiday lets in Cornwall which claim small business rates relief and received Covid grants were registered to people living outside Cornwall.

And 7,440 holiday lets receiving small business rates relief in Cornwall received one or more Covid-19 grant during lockdown. The total paid to those businesses was £169.7milion.

Commenting after the meeting, Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew George said £100m of the Covid-19 grants should be returned and used to tackle the housing emergency.

He said: “Cornwall Council confirmed that £169million of Cornwall’s Covid aid was paid out to the holiday home and second homes sector and that at least £104m of which has been paid to owners who live outside Cornwall.

“It is time the Government sought to recover these monies and ensured they are deployed to address the shocking circumstances of local families suffering the housing emergency, which is in part caused by the growth of second homes and the way our stock of homes are used as investment and leisure toys for the wealthy.”

Credit: Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter