Second homes, or more often holiday homes, are no doubt A Good Thing for those who own them. For many locals in the areas where the better-off drive up house prices and effectively bar others from the market, they are a wasted resource, lived in for a few weeks every year – maybe even week Singular if owners are busy or holidaying elsewhere.
Yet second homes still command a 10% Council Tax discount, mainly because they do not require as much of the local authority’s resource: there is generally less refuse to take away, less demand on services like libraries, parks, public transport and education. But those same local authorities are now being allowed to withdraw that 10% concession.
For most second home owners, that will not trouble them in the least. But for one supporter of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) this is a terrible thing that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has done. J-P Floru, who no doubt by sheer coincidence is also a leading light of the Adam Smith Institiute (ASI), that museum of outdated economic thought that has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics, is horrified.
M Floru, who claims to be a “classical liberal”, argues that this move will cause harm to second home owners, and is just about “greedy councils”. This should surprise no-one familiar with the Floru oeuvre: he has previously argued passionately for scrapping the 50p rate of income tax, as he knows people who have been “forced” to “flee” the UK as a result of its imposition.
Somehow, however, I doubt that this defence will count for much with folks in Devon and Cornwall, the Lake District, and parts of Wales, where outsiders have bought significant numbers of properties, reducing the available housing stock, forcing up prices, while all the time not being there most of the year and therefore harming local businesses and the wider community.
This will be no problem for a “classical liberal”, which is code for someone who believes laissez-faire economics should mean exactly what it says on the tin. But, as Margaret Thatcher didn’t say, there is such a thing as community, and M Floru’s overmonied pals should not be getting special treatment for messing around with it just so they can have a place in the country.