West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas has led a Westminster debate on council tax to press for it to be applied to all residential homes, including second homes and holiday lets.
Mr Thomas says that he is calling for changes in the system to ensure that it is as easy as possible for authorities to fund and provide homes for local families.
“Earlier this year, I received a petition about the need for more homes in West Cornwall and subsequently met with the campaigners to identify ways to resolve the current situation whereby local Cornish families are finding it increasingly difficult to find a home they can afford to live in,” he said.
“The key message that came out of my conversations with the campaigners was that the Government needs to look at the issue of the holiday lets and second homes.
“Research shows that in Cornwall, 8,808 houses are registered as businesses and of that number, 6,650 don’t pay any council tax or business rates as they claim small business rate relief.
“That is 6,650 properties where council tax is not being collected, resulting in a loss of considerable potential income to local authorities, to town and parish councils and to our police.”
Mr Thomas, who has previously raised the issue with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with three separate secretaries to the Treasury and in a recent parliamentary debate, said he was pressing for a change which would ensure that every property which has been built as a home should pay council tax.
“I’m arguing that the Government should close this loophole, allow the authority to collect the council tax charge to provide public services, thus enabling the Government to divert cash towards the provision of homes for local families.
“Business rate relief was introduced to support our high streets and for many it has been of significant benefit but the relief was never intended to create a route to enable a home-owner to avoid paying council tax or business rates when the property is used as a business.
“I’m well aware of the contribution tourism makes to the economy in Cornwall and on Scilly and I recognise the role holiday lets have in supporting this sector but there must be some fairness in our housing system and it could provide some much needed cash to build the homes my constituents need.”
Mr Thomas also pressed the Government to investigate what powers local authorities can be given to collect a council tax premium (up to an additional 100%) from second homes which would be ring-fenced to be used to invest in local housing stock. Mr Thomas argued that people who invested in the area by purchasing a second home take a great interest in the area and want to see that good public services are provided.
Mr Thomas believes that there will be an additional side benefit from making this change for communities where there are large numbers of holiday lets, in the form of a simplified and inclusive waste collection.
“Currently, because of the concern that the users of second homes in places like St Ives are abusing the system and using the bins provided for genuine local residents who are paying council tax, Cornwall Council is removing some of the bins and refusing to collect some of the rubbish,” Mr Thomas said.
“If every property paid council tax, then every property would be entitled to the local authority’s refuse collection service, incidentally also reducing the need for other, private waste trucks that carry out rounds in our towns and villages.”
Mr Thomas is holding a meeting in St Ives later this week to look at the issue of waste disposal and how it can be managed better.