Council Tax and Second Homes

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:01 pm on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 7:01 pm, 26th June 2018

In general, business rates are split between central and local government. Depending on the particular area, that share may be more or less, but a rough rule of thumb is 50:50. Obviously, the particular question that my hon. Friend Bob Stewart asked as to the level of difference between the two will depend on the rateable value of a typical business. The thing to bear in mind, as I said, is that 97% of holiday lets registered in Cornwall, for example, have a rateable value below £12,000, which means that they will be eligible for small business rate relief and to pay no business rates at all, and therein lies the issue that my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives highlighted.

Clearly, if these properties ought not to be eligible for business rates then this could represent a financial loss to both the local and central Exchequer and that would not be fair. I know that there are different approaches to how such properties are taxed. Wales is a case in point. There, such properties must provide evidence of actual letting in the previous year in order to be valued for business rates, rather than for council tax. There may indeed be merits to such an approach, and I am happy to listen to views and ideas on this.

I very much understand the concerns that my hon. Friend has raised. As he knows, I have been looking at this issue for some time and have tasked my officials to investigate this matter in detail, and especially to speak to their counterparts in Wales about their experience there to see whether we should change the criteria under which holiday lets are valued for business rates. Whichever approach is taken, it is crucial that we strike a balance between ensuring that properties pay the right tax at the right level, and also ensuring that genuine small businesses receive the reliefs that they deserve.

To conclude, I have explained the wide-ranging measures that this Government have put in place to deal with the issues raised by second homes—from abolishing mandatory council tax discounts to increasing stamp duty rates, and from allocating funds to community-led local affordable housing to supporting neighbourhood planning. I hope that hon. Members will agree that the Government have been proactive in this area. However, ever restless to ensure that we are taking all sensible steps to address any issues, I am also examining the particular concern raised by my hon. Friend with regard to business rates and look forward to reporting back on this issue to him and to other Members in due course.

I end where I started, by commending my hon. Friend for so tenaciously and passionately continuing to raise this vital issue for his constituents. He is making a real difference to them by putting their issues directly on the Government’s agenda, and I know that he will continue to do exactly that in the days and months to come.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.