New powers to allow Cornwall Council to charge double council tax on second homes are expected to be delayed by a year after a delay in passing the legislation required. It had been hoped that the new powers could come into force in April 2024 but that now looks likely to be delayed until 2025.
The delay was revealed in a report from David Harris, deputy leader of the council, to a meeting of the Customer and Support Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee today. Cornwall Council had agreed that it would adopt the new powers which could have raised up to £25million more for the council.
In his report, Cllr Harris states: “At the time of writing this note it appears that the Bill that would enable us to bring in a Premium on Second Homes Council tax with effect from April 1, 2024 will not be passed into law before March 31, 2023. While we are looking at ways to remove this as an issue it is looking very much as if we will not be able to introduce this extra tax until 2025/26.”
The news has been met with some disappointment by councillors who had preciously hoped that the bill would be passed by the end of the month, which would have allowed new charges to come into force in 2024.
The funds accumulated by the bill were hoped to have been used to provide council services.
Cornwall councillors had previously urged MPs to ensure that the bill was passed in time to help deliver the changes in 2024. And this urgency is for good reason, if the March 31 deadline is missed, the new powers will not be able to come into effect until April 2025.
Andrew George, Liberal Democrat councillor who has long campaigned for additional council tax charges for second home owners, was disappointed with the announcement. He said: “We could paper County Hall with the press releases and trumpeted announcements by the Tories since 2018, since when they’ve repeatedly promised to deal with the shocking injustice – caused by their policies – which effectively reward second home property investors to the detriment of locals needing a first home.
"These announcements are usually issued in the lead-up to local or national elections where their appalling record on housing injustice faces scrutiny.
“Now they admit – but not by declaratory press release of course – that their only, fairly small and probably ineffective, flagship policy will be delayed anyway.
“The proposed policy change to Council Tax on second homes is likely to be navigated around by second home owners anyway. It gives them and their tax lawyers yet another year to rearrange their financial affairs. So the delay will only contribute to the ineffectiveness of this pretty meek proposed policy.
“The Conservatives are still keeping open a tax loophole which has resulted in Cornwall’s absentee second/ holiday home owners receiving twice as much taxpayers’ money as social housing providers have received to provide first homes for those in need.”