Minister raises hope of loophole closure
Last updated at 16:51, Thursday, 01 November 2012
LAST year, after a lot of hard campaigning by me and a few other MPs with constituencies in areas where lots of people have second homes, the government announced it was removing the discount that councils have to make available to second home owners.
This discount, which was in effect a subsidy, could have been anything up to 50 per cent off the amount of council tax that was due on a property when compared to one owned by people who actually lived in it.
We have over 3,000 second homes in South Lakeland and this subsidy hit us in two ways. Firstly, as you know, we have a desperate shortage of first homes for young people and families in this area. So the fact that some people were actually receiving a discount that was not available to locals made it even harder for locals to buy property and live in the area, effectively pricing them out.
Secondly, it created a big hole in the finances of South Lakeland District Council. There is a continual gripe in the local press about the cost of car parking, losing so much income to second home owners does not help the council in keeping parking fees down.
As a result I was really pleased when it was announced by the government that this discount was being abolished.
However, in South Lakeland we have found that there are still some people determined not to pay their fair share of the costs of running council services and who are finding ways around it.
The key “loophole” is that some of them are claiming their second home is a “holiday let” when it is really nothing of the sort, or they only let it for a few days each year so they can claim it as a let. We estimate this is costing the council about £2.7 million a year that they could be spending more usefully.
So I was really pleased to have the opportunity to sit down with a couple of our district councillors, with Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat Communities and Local Government Minister, to discuss the situation and ask him to look into what could be done to close the loophole.
I was even more pleased when he seemed to be very open to do this and promised to give the issue his immediate attention.
An extra £2.7 million in the council’s coffers could be very useful.
I will keep on top of the issue and regularly chase Don to see where he has got to. It would be great for all of us if this loophole could be closed very soon.
First published at 16:13, Thursday, 01 November 2012
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
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Why do you bother adding a comments form to this mans articles as any comments made never get past the gatekeepers?
Even basic ones like asking him to define what an affordable home is!