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Ministers urged to act over second homes

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The government is facing mounting pressure to grant councils powers to deal with the housing and social problems
caused by the ownership of second homes.

Dr Stuart Burgess, rural advocate of the Commission for Rural Communities, has proposed that local authorities create a fund to pay for housing for local residents from council tax on second homes.

In the Report of the rural advocate 2007, published on Monday, Dr Burgess says outsiders push the prices of homes beyond what locals can afford. Homes left empty for months can ruin communities,
with schools and other services often pushed into closure.

At present, second-home owners can claim a discount of between 10% and 50% on second properties. The discount is determined by the local authority concerned.

Dr Burgess said: “It is not always clear if the income from council tax on second homes is being used to benefit the local community.” He also slammed government plans to reduce capital gains tax on second homes.

Meanwhile, an inquiry commissioned by Gordon Brown, which finishes its consultations this week, is floating the idea of giving councils the power to block second home ownership a move that would require changes to current legislation.

Speaking four months before he is due to publish his findings, report author Matthew Taylor MP (Lib Dem) said: “I have reached no conclusions on second homes being subject to planning controls.”

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