Lib Dems try for higher tax on second homes

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SECOND home owners could find a council tax “premium” added to their bills under plans to be tabled by the Liberal Democrats.

Thousands of people who own holiday homes in and around the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors could be hit under the plans designed to raise extra money for councils to keep rural services running.

Critics argue large numbers of second homes in tourist hotspots undermine year-round communities and force up house prices for local people.

Now Liberal Democrat MP Annette Brooke is tabling the Second Home Premium as an amendment to the Local Government Finance Bill.

She said: “In some areas there are very large concentrations of second homes in villages, and as a consequence the village starts to lose its facilities – bus services, and local shops and pubs. There is a case for intervention if a local authority wishes.

“There are practical problems with the implementation of such a policy but as Liberal Democrats we want to generate a widespread debate around these issues – and this is party policy.”

The Government is already consulting on plans to remove the council tax discount on second homes, which ranges from 10 to 50 per cent, depending on the council. Any charge on top of the normal bill would be discretionary, but could be difficult to enforce as there is no simple way to check whether a home is used only some of the time.

Permanent residents in the most desirable villages complain they turn into ghost communities outside the summer, but second home owners say they help the local economy through spending in shops and restaurants.

The Tories are less enthusiastic about a premium, but Lib Dems are anxious to make the most of the opportunity presented by scrapping the tax discount.

The amendment, which calls for a “higher amount of (council tax) for second homes” and has been backed by Lib Dem President Tim Farron, will be tabled at the report stage as the Bill makes its way through Parliament.