Second-home owners in the South West are going to be hit by an increase in council tax bills next year after both Cornwall and Devon councils scrapped their 10% discount. In a move aimed at holiday home owners, they will not only lose their discount but will also be charged 150% on homes that have stood empty for two years.
Plymouth City Council in Devon claims that government cuts have forced the move. ‘We need to look at the big picture here and make sure we are not allowing the most vulnerable people in our city bear the brunt of the cuts,’ says a Plymouth councillor. ‘It’s never an easy decision to make but it’s only right those who can afford a second property pay their full share of council tax.”
A spokesman for local government secretary Eric Pickles agrees, saying: ‘Removing this special tax relief will help to keep council tax bills down for hard-working families and pensioners.’
But characterising second-home owners as ‘rich’ seems an easy target and I would have thought that some of them are also ‘hard-working families’ who have simply chosen to spend their money on a holiday home in Devon or Cornwall because it is cheaper than going abroad. If they now decide to sell up, then the South West will lose their seasonal expenditure. Still, taxing the ‘rich’ is a popular mantra and Plymouth Council hope to raise £1m by cancelling the tax relief.
‘We have people who have been coming to Cornwall for a long time who are involved in local charities and local organisations,’ says Cornwall North MP Dan Rogerson. ‘But that doesn’t mean that they should get the benefit of cheaper tax than those around them that are working hard and contributing far more to the local community.’