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