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MPs urged to reveal second homes in Devon and Cornwall

By GDemianyk  |  Posted: February 25, 2014

  • Henry Smith MP

Comments (12)

MPs have been urged to reveal exactly how many of them own second homes in Devon and Cornwall amid claims a conflict of interest is standing in the way of helping to solve the housing and social crisis in the Westcountry.

An analysis by the Western Morning News found at least five MPs with constituencies outside the two counties own holiday homes or buy-to-let properties in the region.

But the real figure is likely to be larger as parliamentary rules require them to make public only details of properties from which they derive an income.

One senior Cornwall councillor said the rule smacks of “double standards” as politicians at a local authority are ordered to reveal their entire property portfolio.

Alex Folkes, a Liberal Democrat councillor, warned of a conflict as the Government has rejected Cornwall Council’s calls to have powers to impose a council tax premium on second homes, and require new holiday properties to get consent from planners.

Devon and Cornwall boast about 26,000 second homes.

On the desirable North Cornwall and South Devon coasts more than 40% of homes are occupied part-time in some communities, and many have been dubbed “ghost towns” since homes are left empty for much of the year. The swelling proportion of second homes is blamed for undermining services including schools and shops, and pushing prices out of the reach of local people in a region blighted by low incomes.

The WMN analysis of the House of Commons register of members’ interests found around one-third of MPs are buy-to-let landlords.

Around half of these boast properties in London, partly a legacy of a crackdown on claiming mortgage payments on second homes following the 2009 expenses scandal.

Most of the remaining MP-landlords have property in or close to their constituencies.

But some have declared properties hundreds of miles away from their constituency and Westminster.

Adrian Bailey, Labour MP for West Bromwich West, declared two holiday properties in Cornwall.

George Hollingbery, Conservative MP for Meon Valley in Hampshire, has two houses in Cornwall. Last year, David Cameron rented a house from Mr Hollingbery during his summer holiday in the region.

Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley in West Sussex, noted in the register half-ownership of a holiday property in Cornwall.

Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton Test, has a holiday cottage in Devon.

The WMN contacted the four MPs’ offices for comment on the impact of second home ownership on the region’s communities but no-one replied.

Roger Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire in Wales, has a half share in a house in Exmouth, Devon. He told the WMN the property belonged to his late mother and is now rented to local people for residential purposes, and not used as a holiday home.

In total, 18 properties have been declared by MPs as used as “holiday” homes, including in France, Italy and Portugal. Cornwall appears to be the most popular UK destination outside London, though other holiday homes are located in Cumbria, West Wales and Lincolnshire.

Some argue second home owners contribute greatly to the local economy by supporting local businesses and boost areas that have suffered a decline in traditional industries such as mining, fishing and farming.

Last year, Housing Minister Kris Hopkins dismissed claims that wealthy city dwellers are fuelling the shortage of affordable homes in rural and coastal areas. He cited the “extremely vibrant” village of Haworth in his West Yorkshire constituency as a place where “people recognise the worth and merits of the economic gain that comes from (second home ownership)”.

Mr Folkes, who has campaigned for more powers locally to ease the impact of the growing trend, said second homes, particularly those in coastal communities, are forcing out locals and killing off the communities that visitors claim they want to be part of.

He has led council calls to be allowed to require main residences that became second or holiday homes to seek planning permission first.

He said: “If MPs are refusing to accept our request for additional powers which we think are right for Cornwall then we and the public are entitled to know any interests they may have which may affect their judgement.

“Whether we choose to exercise them or not, is a matter for the council once granted. Councillors are required to declare all our property – first, second, third homes; homes let out, business premises. So why are MPs not held to the same?

“MPs who hide behind their rules whilst imposing a different set of rules on local authorities are certainly guilty of double standards.”

The House of Commons code of conduct states property used for an MP’s personal residential purposes, or by their partner and children, does not need to be registered.

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park, declared a farmhouse and cottage in Devon owned by family trust until December 2012.

John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, registered farmland and woodland in Devon.

Cornwall-born Mark Prisk, Tory MP for Hertford and Stortford, owns commercial property in Cornwall.

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  • DipStick  |  February 25 2014, 10:40AM

    Right. Fopr thos ewho think that having a 2nd home is "immoral" according to their own in-built "moral compass" how would you account for this. "IF" I won the lottery, apart from getting myself a nice place/car/motorbike/obligatory donation to local cats home etc etc I'd also buy a 2nd property for my old man. He's too immobile to get about and needs care visits several times a day. This "2nd home" would be mine, just that my dad would live in it. As a 2nd home owner how would you "tax" that? DS

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  • b_mused  |  February 24 2014, 10:49PM

    While I agree that second homes should be subject to double council tax (the effects of empty homes on the local economy cost far more), this is not the main reason for the housing shortage. Increased demand has arisen from uncontrolled immigration, family breakdown and the trend towards single motherhood and overseas investors. All of these issues need addressing urgently but the powers that be don't seem to recognise that the problems exist.

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  • Doitdreckley  |  February 24 2014, 8:44PM

    Employees in the public sector - which includes MPs - are meant to declare second jobs and incomes. Being an MP or a Minister should be a full time job with no time for Directorships or other activities which compromise integrity. In fact many MPs go straight into politics from Oxbridge which suggests privilege. 10% of all MPs are joining or succeeding members of their family in parliament. It has not always been the case that young people could not afford a home. The policies of recent governments have put paid to that .

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  • DipStick  |  February 24 2014, 6:51PM

    "... The question should be where do these MPs get the additional income (over and beyond their £66,000 a year salary) to enable them to buy these holiday homes in Cornwall? ...". Sorry? But what business is it of yours (or mine) where they got their money from|? They're not (MPs that is), for the most part, youngsters just setting out into work. They've mainly worked for many years (it may be just what most would call non-jobs, in politics, but that's another issue) and have probably got a mortgage on the 2nd property. Maybe they have a spouse who earns a lot (Cleggies missus for example), maybe they borrowed off of parents. Maybe a lot of things that aren't our business. As for going on about youngsters not able to buy their own homes, well yah, boo ..... That has always been so no matter where in the country you are. As I said, having a go at people because they own more than one property is definitely the politics of envy. As for being said to be "crass" (def: showing no intelligence or sensitivity) well that also sums up those of a more 'left of centre' persuasion, resorting to, in this case admittedly only mild, insults for those who don't share your particular beliefs. DS

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  • Doitdreckley  |  February 24 2014, 5:01PM

    Hardly the politics of envy when there are people who live and work in Cornwall and Devon who cannot afford a home here. The question should be where do these MPs get the additional income (over and beyond their £66,000 a year salary) to enable them to buy these holiday homes in Cornwall? Dipstick's comment is crass. There are plenty of young people up to their eyes in student debt, transport costs, and rental costs (not to mention the general cost of living) that they cannot afford to save for a deposit on the low wages of the south west.

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  • DipStick  |  February 24 2014, 2:48PM

    @Saintcabbie: ah, the old "politics of envy" coming forth! DS

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  • Saintcabbie  |  February 24 2014, 2:10PM

    Wonder what the housing situation would be like if nobody owned more than one property. At the very least there should be a doubling of the council tax on each additional property.

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  • DipStick  |  February 24 2014, 11:46AM

    @josdave: well said. But this is just to go with MPs expenses. IMO they should have a London base (convert a block of flats maybe?) provided for whichy they can claim NO expenses and also have their primary home in their constituency and also to have lived in their constituency for 5 years+ on election day. That'd sort out most expense issues and also the practice of "parachuting" approved candidates into constituenciues they haven't even heard of! @hello_world: what socialist idyll have you come from? If people have the ability to buy a second home and that is what they want to do with theior money then that's their perogative. We have a housing shortage for many reasons (well, if indeed we do. The developers always say we do ....) such as "young" people not being in work, having not enough money (because they haven't saved enough and we all know what happened when the banks were encouraging people to take out 100%+ mortgages etc!!), etc etc but second homes is not big amongst those reasons, except among those of a more "do as I say, not as I do" nature. DS

  • The Pilchard Works  |  February 24 2014, 11:26AM

    There are holiday homes--let out to holiday makers, second homes--not let out and only used occasionally, and then there are buy-to-let homes, let out on Short Term Tenancy agreements. Cornwall Council do not reveal, or do not know, the totals for each sector. Buy-to-let homes on Short term Tenancy agreements provide a valuable housing stock for local people to use. Holiday homes rented out for the more than four months of the year provide accommodation for the financially important Cornish tourism industry. Second homes, only used by the owner and friends for a few weeks of the year, could be said to unfavourably inflate local house values, diminish community cohesion, and reduce the total housing stock available for locals to rent or buy. How many of each sector are there in Cornwall and what effects do they have when CC are assessing future housing needs? If each sector is growing then building more houses, whatever constraints are put on their sale, will just mean more of the existing housing stock being used for holidays.

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  • hello_world  |  February 24 2014, 11:11AM

    Second homes should be banned, completely. When so many people are forced to live with their parents through their twenties we have a real shortage of housing. People should be allowed to hoard them.

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