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Tory opposed to Welsh Gov’s second homes plan won seat with financial support of family’s holiday cottage business

14 Nov 2021 5 minutes Read
Samuel Kurtz after his election as the Senedd Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire

A Conservative Senedd Member who spoke out against the Welsh Government’s plans to tackle Wales’ second homes crisis won his seat with financial support from his family’s holiday cottage business, Nation.Cymru can reveal.

Samuel Kurtz, who was elected the MS for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire in May, has suggested the Welsh Government is being “knee-jerk and reactionary” over second homes and has quizzed ministers on the financial impact on owners and possible dispensations.

His Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Conservative branch received a £3,000 donation in April from an unincorporated association called ‘The Partners T/A MR & CA Kurtz Property’ registered at a property called ‘Swn y Morlo’, Electoral Commission records show.

In 2018, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority approved an application for a “barn conversion to holiday let” at the same address.

The cottage is now advertised as “the perfect romantic retreat” and was being offered at £600 per week on Facebook during August.

It is one of three “luxury” self-catering holiday cottages offered on a website where Kurtz’s parents are listed as the contact point for potential holidaymakers.

Kurtz previously had a “beneficial interest” in Swn y Morloi, according to Pembrokeshire County Council’s register of interests.

In response to this article, he told Nation.Cymru that he had “been blessed with incredibly supportive parents” and there was a “difference between a legitimate self-catering business and a second home”. His full response can be read below.

‘Robust’

When the Welsh Government announced its plan to address the second homes crisis in July, Kurz asked about the financial impact on owners of holiday accommodation.

“You mentioned developing a statutory registration scheme for all holiday accommodation, including short-term lets,” Kurz asked housing minister Julie James.

“Can I ask who will manage these registrations, Minister? Will it fall on the local authorities, and, if so, will they be funded accordingly, or will the cost fall onto the owners of the holiday accommodation, with the charge reflecting the number of properties?”

He also posted a video of his intervention on Twitter, adding: “The economic benefits of the domestic holiday industry are huge. We need to build on that & WG must not cut off their nose to spite their face over second homes.

“Delighted that Pembrokeshire topped a recent list as the UK’s favourite ‘stay-cation’ location #westisbest.”

In a separate debate a week later, Kurtz suggested that there is “only limited robust evidence” about the impact of second homes on the Welsh language and asked: “Are the Welsh Government looking at undertaking any further research to collect more evidence to ensure decisions made are robust, fair and long-standing, rather than knee-jerk and reactionary?”

In September, Kurz used a meeting of the Senedd’s housing and local government committee to ask James about the Welsh Government’s definition of a second home.

He said: “There’s a case there as well for distinguishing the difference between a second home and a self-catering unit, for example, which you mentioned—the buy to let rather than a self-catering unit.

“Obviously, through the business rates relief, et cetera, the definition of a self-catering unit is one that’s let for short periods that total 140 days or more per year, but is actually let for 70.

“So, advertised for 140 but let for 70. Is there scope to strengthen the remit around what is classified as a self-catering unit rather than focus solely on what a second home is? As in, by eradicating one you clarify the situation of the other. Is there a possibility of exploring that?”

Kurtz is not a member of the housing and local government committee but records show he was a substitute for fellow Conservative MS Sam Rowlands on the day of the hearing with the minister.

‘Clear difference’

Nation.Cymru contacted Samual Kurtz for comment and he provided the following statement:

“I, like many, have been blessed with incredibly supportive parents who have encouraged me as I pursue my career,” he said.

“I’m fortunate and grateful for this and having them join me for the Royal Opening of the Senedd was a special moment for me, and hopefully them too.

“There is a difference between a legitimate self-catering business and a second home. By tightening the definition criteria: ensuring a higher number of nights let per year, more than the current 70 from 140 nights advertised, then this can stop unscrupulous practices where by second homes are wrongly classed as self-catering businesses and owners avoid council tax payments.

“We need a clear and evidence-led plan to deliver a strategy that allows local people to buy homes locally, and protects the unique cultural and linguistic attributes of these areas.

“As a young person in rural Wales who is yet to get their foot on the property ladder myself, I am committed to ensuring rural Wales has enough quality homes for local people while ensuring our tourism sector is supported.”

‘Playgrounds’

The findings come after a rally at the Senedd on Saturday in support of stricter limits on holiday accommodation in response to Wales’ housing crisis.

Responding to today’s story, Mabli Siriol Jones, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, which organised the protest, said:

“Every Member of the Senedd has been elected to represent their communities and the people who live in them – it’s important they remember that.

“Over a thousand people from all over Wales gathered outside the Senedd yesterday to call on our elected representatives to ensure a housing system that puts people’s needs before profits, and communities before capital. It’s time for them to listen.”

Growing concern over the issue saw the Senedd’s local government and housing committee launch an inquiry into the impact of second homes on Thursday.

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Crwtyddol
13 days ago

One immediate action that could be taken to help a little is to take away the small business council tax relief that is available on houses let for more than 70 days. This booking requirement is very easily bypassed by getting family to book, what is actually a second home, not an actual holiday let. This tax relief should not be available on any holiday let whatsoever. That would be a start and whether doubling Council Tax is continued with can be open to discussion. But get rid of the present loophole / relief!

George Bodley
George Bodley
10 days ago
Reply to  Crwtyddol

That’s one of many actions that should be taken add to that council tax increase

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
13 days ago

More Conservative hypocrisy & sleaze. To criticise Welsh Government action over the second home crisis whilst omitting that your Mummy & Daddy gave you money to win your seat from an industry largely responsible for the problem faced a little ironic. When will these crooks be stopped?

hdavies15
hdavies15
12 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Not a crook… under the present crazy lax regime. The favourable tax treatment and relaxed planning and other regulatory regime that exists currently needs to be reconfigured top to bottom. Now it is quite likely that the Kurtz family would be allowed to continue trading in holiday lets etc but they will have to pay their share of community/social and other costs to do so. New entrants should face a much sterner series of tests covering choice of location and a severe addition to their cost base by way of council tax, tourism levies, and more equitable contractual treatment of… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
12 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I think my assumption of him is warranted. Anyone who represents & supports a party that’s done so much harm to Wales meets that criteria. Although I do agree with you that when any system starts to creak needs restructuring, but the Conservative policies of the past have caused this ongoing second home crisis among other social issues faced thought Wales. And their response. Not our fault. I beg to differ! And Samuel Kurtz has an obvious vested interest, so I’m not that surprised he’s vermenyly opposed to any would-be hike in rates for second home owners as any increase… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Y Cymro
Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
12 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

The Tory party is a crime syndicate working out of Westminster with branches in Cardiff and Edinburugh

j humphrys
j humphrys
12 days ago

Lobby for Alliance to rid Wales of the Tories. Join Yes Cymru!

hdavies15
hdavies15
12 days ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Are you still convinced that YC is up to that job ? They seem to be remarkably slow in getting their act sorted out after the debacle of earlier this year.

defaid
defaid
12 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I wonder if they’re having difficulty finding candidates for the central committee. The unpleasantness must have put off a lot of good people.

JonathanEdwards
JonathanEdwards
12 days ago
Reply to  j humphrys

I didn’t know Yes Cymru was an anti-Tory Alliance. I had hoped it was pro-Wales and open to all

Popsie
Popsie
12 days ago

YC is anti-Tory club that takes a fee for membership. It is not regulated and transparent as political parties are under UK law.

George Bodley
George Bodley
10 days ago

You pro tory then? Do you support the damage done to cymru by the tories?

defaid
defaid
12 days ago
Reply to  j humphrys

I’m probably going to get shot down for writing this but…

Please don’t conflate pro-independence and anti-tory sentiments. YC is non-partisan. Any indy-curious tory reads your words, they’re only going to swing one way.

While I concede that unionism is far more popular on the right, there are plenty of unionists also on the left and the centre; one is currently running our country.

Meic Dafis
Meic Dafis
12 days ago

I’ve read some biased bad reporting in my time, but this takes the biscuit. He made the correct declarations, both in his electoral return and declaration of Members’ interests. There is a massive difference between a Welsh farming partnership letting a barn conversion as a holiday let on a farm on which they live and Rupert and Griselda living in London and owning AirBnB’s in St Dogmael’s or Aberdyfi. And anyone who can’t see that is more one-eyed than One-Eyed Willie. I suggest you read what Sam Kurtz actually said rather than what you read through the filter of your… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
12 days ago
Reply to  Meic Dafis

YC is on its way to becoming a VERY exclusive club by excluding everybody who doesn’t conform to the core group’s tick list of priorities. I’m still waiting to find out whether any sort of independence features on that list !

Pete
Pete
11 days ago
Reply to  Meic Dafis

Exactly, he is making the case to strengthen the requirements to be classed as a qualifying business….. lazy reporting akin to the standard of the daily mail…

George Bodley
George Bodley
10 days ago

Wales is not a playground for for people to buy holiday homes in 2nd homes just for holidays and left unused for part of the year should be banned a policy of increased rated should apply

Paul Leverett
Paul Leverett
8 days ago

I agree totally with mr kurts comments

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