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The mass protest over 'second homes loophole'

The mass protest over 'second homes loophole'

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 8:20am 12th February 2018. (Updated at 7:34am 13th February 2018)

Photo: John Martin

This was the moment more than 100 locals braved the rain in Cornwall, to march over second homes.

Saturday's protest from Mousehole to Penzance was led by housing campaigner Andrew George.

He claims government policies favour second home owners to the detriment local people, local services and businesses.

The former St Ives MP has launched a petititon against the abuse of tax loopholes and holiday lets in the Duchy.

Andrew said: "Congratulations to all those who came out in very wet conditions, marching from Mousehole to Penzance, to fight for local families in desperate need of decent and genuinely affordable homes and to clamp down on the multi-million £ tax avoidance of thousands of wealthy second homers who could pay for it".

Posting on Facebook after the march, Andrew added: "I led parliamentary campaigns against the Conservatives to stop the tax loop-holes and scrap the massively unfair 'bedroom tax' which they imposed on council house occupants.

"Under this Government, if the rich under-occupy their second home the Conservatives reward them - with massive tax avoidance loopholes.

"But if the poor are deemed to under occupy their council home they penalise them with the ‘bedroom tax’!"

Speaking before the protest, Andrew said: "The conservatives opposed efforts to close the evident tax abuses going during the Coalition Government.

"They were more interested in pressing ahead with policies which moved housing policy in the opposite direction, like the "bedroom tax", which of course I opposed.

"Indeed, Labour failed to take up my proposal to introduce measures which would have made it easier to control second homes - i.e. the introduction of a new planning designation for 'non-permanent occupancy'.

"This would have provided a clear and stronger basis for other policies, like controlling numbers and adjusting taxation and other levies to ensure they paid their way.

"In the present situation there's very little that local authorities can do to increase tax on second homes, because they're not defined in law and will always find ways to avoid controls.

"The present situation is evidently and monumentally unjust.

"Our petition proposes a practical solution, as does the Liberal Democrat led motion submitted this week to Cornwall Council".

St Austell and Newquay MP, Steve Double, raised the issue in parliament a few weeks ago.

Speaking in Prime Minister's Questions, he called it unacceptable and said the loophole needs to be fixed.

Standing in for Theresa May, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington promised that action would be taken against anyone who lies.

Steve Double said: "Holiday homes in Cornwall are a mixed blessing, they provide important support to our local economy but they also take up vitally needed housing stock and push up prices beyond the reach of many local people.

"In addition to that, many of them avoid paying council tax by switching to business use and then enjoying the benefits of small business rate relief.

"Does my right honourable friend agree with me that this situation is unacceptable, and would he use his good offices to help the government close this loophole?"

David Lidington responded: "My honourable friend raises a valid point. Clearly it's right that holiday owners should pay the correct tax.

"Obviously individual decisions over whether the property should pay council tax or business rates rest with the Valuation Office Agency, which operates independently of ministers.

"But if a property is available to rent for 140 days or more a year, then it will be subject to business rates and if it does not meet this test, council tax will be due.

"If an individual provides false information in order to seek business rate relief, that person is liable to summary conviction or a fine, or both".

You can read more and sign the peition against 'tax loophole' for second homes here.

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