Second home tax hike slammed by Tory election candidate
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
A decision to double the council tax rate on second homes in Gwynedd has been described by one Tory politician as “taking a wrecking ball through the county’s visitor economy”.
Approved during a full council meeting on Thursday, the move means that the owners of second and long term empty properties in Gwynedd will face paying a 100% rather than 50% premium from April.
According to decision makers, proceeds will be ploughed back into a £77m housing action plan which includes building new properties and bringing others back into use, increasing the availability of both social and affordable housing.
But one Conservative has slammed the decision, describing it as “the politics of nationalism”.
Charlie Evans, planning to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd for May’s Senedd election, said: “The council has voted for a proposal that’s going to take a wrecking ball through Gwynedd’s visitor economy.
“The indirect benefits that businesses get and the jobs that are dependent on it have been completely ignored. The politics of nationalism has trumped good policymaking.
“Already I have had many business owners reach out to me to tell me of their real anxiety and dismay over this decision. This decision is just a cover-up for a lack of meaningful action taken on housing over a number of years.
“The cabinet has chosen to implement this in April, a month out from the election. Implementation should be postponed until after the election for a full and frank debate to take place during the Senedd campaign.”
But Mabon ap Gwynfor, who’ll be competing against Mr Evans, backed the actions of party colleagues on the Plaid Cymru-run authority.
“We are facing a housing crisis and the stark truth is that communities are being hollowed out and young people can’t afford to buy homes in their own communities,” said Cllr ap Gwynfor.
“Some communities have up to 60% of their housing stock that are empty for much of the year. This is completely unsustainable.
“The Labour First Minister and his government have resolutely refused to take action to protect our communities, claiming that they have given councils powers to resolve this, namely the ability to increase the tax.
“To his shame the First Minister has argued that because councils have not used this power his government will therefore not look at the issue.
“Gwynedd has taken the correct decision to take action to protect our communities with the limited powers at their disposal, and force the Welsh Government to take this seriously.
“Legitimate holiday businesses will not be impacted, in fact they will benefit as people wanting to holiday here will pay for their accommodation in official holiday lets.
“Anybody claiming that this will damage the economy are economically illiterate. Keeping people who work in our communities all year round is far better than letting houses lay empty.
“These houses will still require maintenance and building work.”
Cllrs Glyn Daniels and Peter Read, planning to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd for Llais Gwynedd and Propel respectively, both backed the proposals.
But Liberal Democrat councillor Stephen Churchman, also contesting May’s Senedd Election, backed an amendment by Labour’s Sion Jones to keep the premium at 50% after fears were raised it would lead to even more second home owners “flipping” to non-domestic rates and slashing the income generated as a result.
“Our race to make more money may end up with us receiving less in the long run,” added Cllr Churchman.
Labour’s Cian Ireland said he backed the increase in the premium despite the intervention of his party colleague, Cllr Sion Jones.
Mr Ireland told the Local Democracy Reporting Service, “Second homes contribute less to the local economy when compared to being occupied all year round, and raise house prices out of the reach of many local people.
“I hope that the council’s decision, with the Welsh Government-commissioned policy paper, is a building block to help deal with these problems.”