At Liberal Democrat spring conference in Southport today, members passed a motion which calls for Local Authorities to be given the power to increase council tax on second homes by up to 500%.
Data from the Rural Services Network has estimated that across mainly rural areas, an average of 2.5% of properties are second homes. This figure substantially rises in some areas: in the Isles of Scilly over 15% of properties are second homes, with nearly 9% in South Hams, and 10% in some parts of Norfolk.
To deal with the huge pressures this can put on local communities and services, Liberal Democrats have today voted enable local authorities to increase the council tax on second properties by up to 500%, and to give local authorities the power to increase the stamp duty surcharge on additional properties to 5%.
This cash would all go directly to local authorities, so they can invest in much needed affordable housing and local services. It would be for local authorities to determine whether they used one or both of these measures.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat DEFRA spokesperson Tim Farron said:
“High levels of second home ownership can have a hugely detrimental impact on local communities across the country, like in my own constituency in the South Lakes where almost 7.5% of all properties are second homes. This too often leads to the unacceptable decline and closure of key local services like schools, bus services, shops and Post Offices.
“If we are going to protect our communities from dying out then we need to take some action.
“Allowing councils to significantly increase council tax on second homes, by up to 500% if they wish, is not about penalising second home owners, but about asking them to pay a fair contribution towards those vital local services which are at risk. This would provide councils in areas with high second-home ownership with a fair and effective way of raising funds which could be ring-fenced to fund key local services and deliver affordable homes for lower income families.
“It's absolutely vital that we have in place the measures which will keep our communities thriving and ensure that places from Cumbria to Cornwall remain amazing places to live for everyone”