Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Squeeze 'em 'til the Pips Squeak!

George Monbiot on form today.

I would like to see the ownership of second homes become prohibitively expensive, wherever they might be. It remains cheaper to own a second house than to own a first one. The government has reduced the rebate on council tax for ghost homes from 50% to 10%, but it still seems outrageous that there should be a discount of any size. Worse, as a letter to the Guardian pointed out yesterday, people are buying up weekend homes as fake holiday lets and setting these "loss-making business" against tax. Plainly this loophole needs to be closed. But why not a 500% council tax for all second homes, which local authorities are obliged to hypothecate: to use, in other words, for new social housing? It won't stop the richest people from buying extra houses, but at least the people at the bottom of the ladder get something back.

As Monbiot points out there's a snowball's chance in hell that this government will do anything about this since large numbers of them own several properties - a measure of just how corrupt (from a leftwing perspective - and, after all, the Labour party is supposed to be a party of labour) New Labour has become. Monbiot refers, for example, to luvvie Labour MP, Barbara Follett, "who owns a £2m house in her constituency (in Stevenage), a flat in Soho and homes in Antigua and Cape Town, has claimed £76,357 in Commons expenses over the past four years for her London pad. " Who do these people represent? Who?

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