Election 2015

Election 2015: Nick Clegg's tax rise vow on second homes

Liberal Democrat leader and deputy PM Nick Clegg
Image caption Prices are "beyond reach" of many young people, Nick Clegg says

Nick Clegg has said owners of second homes in rural beauty spots could face paying double the rate of council tax under Liberal Democrat plans.

Launching the party's Countryside Charter, he said the plans would ensure local residents were not priced out of the property market.

They would allow local authorities to charge 200% council tax in some areas.

The Lib Dem leader also wants to create 300,000 jobs in rural areas if the party has power after the election.

Mr Clegg said the proposed second home levy was aimed at ensuring there was "fairness in the housing market".

'Close the gap'

On a campaign visit to St Austell, Cornwall, he said the levy could help "particularly in such a wonderful part of the country as this where there are so many people with second homes and where the prices, because of that, are way beyond the reach of many young people wanting to get their feet on the first rung of the property ladder".

A source said: "We are not saying this will be imposed."

But he added that local authorities in areas including Cumbria, Cornwall and Devon had said they would be interested in higher council tax rates to "discourage" second home ownership.

In the census, Cornwall was the local authority where the greatest number of people recorded a second address. A total of 22,997 people who were usually resident elsewhere in England and Wales, had a second address in Cornwall which was used for 30 days or more each year.

Launching his party's charter, he said he also wanted to "close the gap" between urban and rural areas in the provision of high-speed broadband, ensuring that 99.9% of households were covered.

Mr Clegg said the rural economy was worth £210bn and was crucial to the UK.

Where do people have holiday homes?

  • Cornwall 6.2%
  • Gwynedd 4.7%
  • North Norfolk 2.9%
  • South Lakeland 2.8%
  • East Lindsey 2.7%
  • Pembrokeshire 2.6%
  • East Riding of Yorkshire 2.5%

Source: Census 2011 - Office for National Statistics

How many people have second homes?

He added: "The Liberal Democrats want to unlock this potential so rural areas and the rest of the UK can thrive.

"In order to prosper, rural areas need good local services, appropriate infrastructure and more housing.

"Only the Liberal Democrats will create a stronger economy and fairer society where everyone and every part of the UK can reach its full potential."

The party also says it will take action to protect rural post offices and other essential services from closure; prioritise rural housing and boost tourism by introducing a "fuller" right to roam, and new national nature parks.

The charter will also aim to support fishing communities and make rural settlements safer by creating "retained" police officers, who would be fully trained and on-call to respond quickly where needed.

Other measures include help for farming, strengthening the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure farmers are paid fairly, publishing a national food strategy, and developing an animal disease strategy to lessen the risks and costs of animal disease.

On rural issues, the Conservatives have pledged to invest £2.3bn in more than 1,400 flood defence schemes to protect 300,000 homes, while Labour said they would protect food producers from unfair practices by big supermarkets.

The Greens would end factory farming and animal testing and improve protection for animals, and UKIP pledge to abolish the export of live animals for slaughter.

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