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Holiday home owners claim £50m of grants aimed to help small businesses

Holiday home owners claim £50m of grants aimed to help small businesses

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:56am 27th April 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Holiday home owners have claimed £50 million of the grants which were made available for small businesses in Cornwall to survive during the coronavirus crisis.

The startling figure was revealed by Cornwall councillor Cornelius Olivier who said the holiday home owners were “taking the piss” in claiming the cash.

Cornwall Council has been responsible for distributing the money provided by the Government to give small businesses grants to keep them afloat. It said yesterday that it has paid out £195m to more than 17,000 businesses.

But it has been revealed that 5,000 holiday lets, which are eligible for the grants by virtue of being registered as businesses, have each claimed £10,000 from the scheme.

Labour councillor Cornelius said the Government should have closed a loophole which has allowed holiday let owners to class their properties as small businesses which means they avoid paying both council tax and business rates on their properties, because they are below the threshold to pay the latter income-wise.

“I am not surprised that these grants have been going to holiday lets as this is something I have been following for some time.

“Ever since (Cornwall Council chief executive) Kate Kennally said what a great job we are doing in getting this money out – and the council has done a good job – I have wondered how much is going to people who own second homes registered as tax exempt businesses.

“I finally got an answer yesterday evening and they said that there are 8,000 holiday lets eligible for business grants and 5,000 have applied so far. They would get £10,000 each.

“So 27% of the money has gone out to the owners of these properties.”

Cornelius Olivier, Penzance councillor

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He added: “If this anomaly (holiday lets classed as small businesses exempt from business rates) had been closed two years ago then it would never have happened.”

Cllr Olivier said he was angry that holiday let owners were claiming the money which was made available to help businesses to survive.

He said: “They don’t need the money mostly and they shouldn’t get it. There are lots of business that will struggle to survive even if they get this help. Why are we giving this money to people who don’t need it? We should be making a stand.”

And he added: “It is quite clear that the business grants are for – to keep people afloat that wouldn’t otherwise survive.

“For these holiday lets to get this money – you know I think they are taking the piss by applying.

“Even if you have a property that you work quite hard to maintain and use as a holiday let – I don’t think it is a matter of financial life and death like a cafe or a pub.”

But the councillor added: “I don’t want to demonise people. This has been caused by a loophole that we have been campaigning to have closed for years.

“But this money is going to the wrong people and we are giving people a bailout for making a house unavailable for a person in Cornwall. They are not trying to keep a struggling business alive.”

This week the Welsh Government said that only holiday homes which are their owners’ majority source of income would be able to get the grants.

Cornwall Council leader Julian German said the council would like to have a similar criteria but it would have to be something agreed by the English Government.

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