A Liberal Democrat government would allow authorities in rural areas to hike the council tax on second homes by up to 500 per cent, responses to The Yorkshire Post’s challenge on policies to help the county have revealed.
In setting out 10 “burning questions” yesterday, the newspaper invited party leaders to set out the ways in which their manifestos would benefit Yorkshire.
The Lib Dems’ policy emerged as it outlined its determination to prevent “the prevalence of second homes which price out important members of the community like nurses and teachers”.
It says it will build 300,000 homes a year across England and see that new rural developments contain “an appropriate percentage of affordable housing”.
The issue of taxing second homes has been hugely controversial. Last year, a move in the Dales was abandoned after a narrow vote by councillors.
Labour, which has in the past proposed a tax on holiday homes, said in its response that it was committed to build at least 150,000 council and social homes a year, with councils mandated to build 100,000 for social rent.
The Conservatives promise 1m more new houses over the next five years, with an emphasis on helping more people own their own homes.
The other issues we raised exposed widely different approaches, with the Conservatives promising that no one would ever have to sell their own home to pay for their care in old age.
It called for a cross-party consensus on the issue, a view echoed by the Lib Dems. Labour says it will introduce free personal care to help older people to live independently in their own homes. It will also cap care costs, to avoid the prospect of “catastrophic costs” for care.
On the economy, Labour said it would incentivise global companies to base themselves in Yorkshire and revitalise the region’s struggling high streets by taking on the “vested interests” which it says are starving communities outside London of investment.
The Conservatives said supporting “our wealth creators” was “the only way” to fund public services”, while the Lib Dems propose preventing developers from turning shops into houses without planning permission, and replacing business rates with a levy.
On the question of transport, the Tories reiterated their commitment to the east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail line, but have delayed the publication of a review on the HS2 high speed route until after the election.
Labour is committed to renationalising the rail industry, and promises “a proper Crossrail for the North”, as well as “all stages” of HS2. The Lib Dems say both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are needed, as well as “significant upgrades to existing lines”.
The Conservatives, who will publish their manifesto tomorrow, want to see devolution across Yorkshire, while Labour says it will make directly elected mayors “more accountable”. The Lib Dems say authorities with mayors should have no more powers than those without.
On education, Labour will cap class sizes at 30 and providing free hot lunches for primary school children. The Lib Dems propose to employ 20,000 more teachers over five years.
Across the rest of the agenda, all three parties would ban fracking immediately and Labour will re-establish an Agricultural Wages Board in England and “expand access to farm holdings”. The Conservatives promise to match the current annual budget available to farmers, while the Lib Dems, who are committed to preventing Brexit and maintaining EU subsidies, would also introduce a “national food strategy”.