CORNWALL Council will urge the government to end all tax subsidies for holiday home owners.

The majority of members agreed with a motion brought by Liberal Democrat councillors to end tax loopholes, which have seen over £500-million of taxpayers’ money handed out in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly over the last decade.

A full council meeting on Tuesday, May 21, voted in favour of Cornwall Council leader Cllr Linda Taylor urging the government to end the Small Business Rate Relief subsidy and other tax incentives granted to “short-term rentals” such as Airbnbs.

However, an amendment by Independent councillors to ringfence a “significant amount” from double council tax on second homes to pay for affordable homes for local people was thrown out. The new second homes tax comes into play next year.

Lib Dem councillors Andrew George and Colin Martin submitted the motion for debate. Cllr Martin said: “Whilst 27,000 Cornish families are on the waiting list for affordable housing, and 800 are in temporary emergency accommodation, it is simply obscene that the Government is spending over £20-million per year subsidising the use of around 12,000 properties in Cornwall as holiday accommodation.”

Cllr George added: “Local people pay heavy council tax or business rate bills, but holiday homeowners instead have this paid for them by the rest of us. A few of the other invisible – to the public – tax breaks which holiday homeowners enjoy may have been limited in the recent budget, but that will have no impact on the growth of holiday homes. These tax breaks must be stopped and the millions spent should be redirected to address the desperate need for affordable accommodation for locals.”

His motion welcomed the Conservative government’s adoption of one part of a longstanding Liberal Democrat and Mebyon Kernow policy, which Labour and Independent members have also pursued, to introduce a new planning use class. It requires planning permission to convert a dwelling to “non-permanent occupancy”, though the government’s proposal would apply this to holiday lets, not to all non-permanent occupancy uses.

Lib Dem councillor Jim Candy said that 52 per cent of accommodation in Polruan is not in full-time use, which is leading to the community being hollowed out like many coastal areas in Cornwall. He said local people in Polperro are forced to live in new housing at the top of the village because they now can’t afford to live near the harbour.

Cllr Tamsyn Widdon, of the Mebyon Kernow / Green group, added: “What we don’t do well enough is protect the people on low incomes, in insecure housing situations, who can see £1m homes being built and know they will never have the chance to get there. It is demoralising and atrocious. What this motion might do is send a signal that we are standing up for residents who need our support rather than multi-million private business.”

Independent councillor Tim Dwelly said although he welcomed the move he wasn’t a fan of motions which write to Government “urging”. He proposed an additional “tangible” point that Cornwall Council earmarks a significant proportion of additional second homes council tax income (the double payment is likely to bring in around £20-million) to boost delivery of affordable and rented homes for local people.

Conservative deputy leader Cllr David Harris said the additional income from the second homes tax would be needed to balance council budgets as the local administration faces huge financial difficulties. However, he argued that a significant proportion of the money would be going into housing as part of that. Cllr Dwelly responded that wasn’t guaranteed.

The council voted in favour of the ‘Support for Housing Justice. End Tax Subsidies for Holiday Homes’ motion but against Cllr Dwelly’s amendment.