Conservatives to raise taxes on second homes in England, after criticising move in Wales
Conservatives plan to allow councils to raise taxes on second homes in England, despite criticising similar moves when they were introduced in Wales.
Owners of second homes who do not rent out their properties will be hit with double council tax in England under plans to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, in a bid to win back voters after a set of disastrous election results last week.
The UK Government’s plans for England include giving councils discretionary powers to increase council tax by 100 per cent on second homes that are neither used nor let out by their owners for at least 70 days per year.
When similar measures were introduced in Wales in 2020 the Welsh Conservatives criticised them as penalising people who were “bringing much-welcomed investment to boost our local economies”.
The UK Government described similar moves in England as a crackdown on empty holiday homes in picturesque areas that are pushing up property prices.
Wealthy owners who do not let their properties out or use them enough will be expected to contribute to “crucial services in a way that can really benefit the whole community and boost levelling up”, a UK Government source told the Telegraph newspaper.
The policy is designed to appeal to voters in the south of England, they said, where the Conservatives are losing support against a resurgent Liberal Democrats. Sources told the Telegraph that the money raised could be used to cut council tax.
When the Welsh Government introduced measures allowing councils to raise taxes 100% on second homes in 2020, the Welsh Conservatives criticised the move.
Janet Finch-Saunders AM, Shadow Secretary for Local Government, said: “The Act fails to recognise that second home owners are already paying full council tax for local services they are not present for. Welsh Conservatives have long called for clarity on the definition of a second home; yet still this remains glaringly absent.
“The current ambiguity will lead to differing approaches and confusion across Wales. With the premiums being proposed by local authorities across Wales varying between 0% – 100%, the introduction of the higher premiums may see displacement to those authorities charging less.
“Second home owners often already own their main home in Wales. And many choose to visit other parts of our beautiful country on a very regular basis, bringing much-welcomed investment to boost our local economies. Increasing council tax premiums to such an extent is unfair and further taxes those who are already investing here in Wales.
“There is a danger that those second home owners who have put their life savings into realising their dreams will be penalised and hit hardest.”
The Welsh Government subsequently decided in March of this year to allow local authorities to increase tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties to 300%, effective from April 2023.
To qualify as safe catering accommodation rather than second homes they will have to be left out for at least 182 days in any 12-month period.
Welsh Conservatives described these plans as the Welsh Government “pandering to their nationalist coalition partners” and “punishing aspiration and investment in Wales”.
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