Here is our live report from Tuesday night’s Richmondshire District Council meeting where councillors voted against holding talks with the Government over a proposal which could have seen council tax increased dramatically on second homes.
Crikey that was close. 13 to 12 against the recommendation. Three people abstained. The recommendation to talk to the government has been rejected. This potentially means the idea of increasing council tax on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales is dead in the water, as are the other options that were to be discussed with ministers. There will be fall-out from this tomorrow but for now we’re going to try get home.
Most of the talking has now been done and we are a few minutes away from a vote. Councillors will first vote on a motion by Stuart Parsons to reject the recommendation to go talk to government. Obviously if Cllr Parson’s motion is carried, it means the YDNPA’s will have to return to the drawing board. It’s been quite clear that the issue of council tax increase has been key tonight. The previous talk of an increase five times current levels has had people worried.
Cllr Ian Threlfall says the recommendation is to discuss options with the government and says he will be backing it
He urges councillors not to throw the issue into the “long grass” and adds: “Let’s use this as a catalyst to go forward to solve the problem that has been here for a long time.”
Cllr Lorraine Hodgson says she is worried that would have a negative impact on Richmondshire District Council if it goes through.
Cllr William Heslop says they’re trying to make a decision without the relevant information. He’s also not backing the plan.
Tony Duff, a Conservative, is also not in favour of the proposal. The chance of the recommendation being passed is fading by the minute.
Richmondshire doesn’t have enough good jobs, says Cllr Linda Curran. “That’s the basis of the problem, not second homeowners,” she adds.
Cllr John Blackie says the proposals will do more harm than good. He says the issue is not just one of housing. He adds that there is not the quality of jobs to attract young people to the Dales and keep them. He says the proposal is already causing huge “socio-economic damage” and that there are lots of other ways to deal with the problem, but they had gone to the “nuclear option”.
Council leader Yvonne Peacock is speaking now. She is one of the lead councillors behind the proposals.
She stresses that only the government can increase council tax and the plans before councillors are only to take options to government. She says they are to take the options to government and say “we have a problem”. She says that after talking to the second home owners, she no-longer believes that increasing council tax by five times is the right thing to do but she does back the recommendation to take the proposal to government.
Cllr Karin Sedgwick is speaking now. She is Conservative so it will be interesting to see which way she is voting. Looks like she is not backing the proposal. She asks why YDNPA hasn’t done anything about the lack of affordable housing in the Dales sooner. She, like others, has mentioned that if second home owners are driven out of the national park, they may buy up properties elsewhere in Richmondshire, which just moves the problem elsewhere.
Cllr Parsons proposes that the council rejects the recommendation and writes back to the national park authority to tell them the plan is “bonkers”.
Fremington solicitor Ann Pope tells councillors she is looking to sell her house in March. She says she is extremely concerned at the impact the proposal will have on property values for all homeowners in the Dales.
“To encourage younger people to move into the Dale, you need to have better paid jobs, schools and infrastucture,” she adds.
Councillors are now reading a letter from Darren Chadwick, a Dales builder, who says: “The Dales has not been infiltrated or exploited by second home owners. It has been, and continues to be enriched by such welcome individuals and the tax proposals would be injurious to this harmonious state of contentment. Please record my sentiment in your considerations.” A lovely way with words has builder Darren!
Retired Telegraph journalist Paul Stokes, who has a second home in Grinton, is up next.
He says: “What you are being asked tonight is to aid and abet the biggest council tax persecution of a minority group in history.” Safe to say he’s not a fan of the proposal.
Gunnerside second home owner Robert Flather says countless tradesmen in the Dales get 50% of their business from second home owners.
He adds: “By their very nature of their part-time residence, second home owners are far more likely to use local tradesmen, eat out and use local shops.
“You are risking losing all of this economic activity.”
Ian Wharton, co-founder of Dales Homeowners Action Group, says 90% of his builder’s work comes from second home owners. He says house prices in the Yorkshire Dales area already starting to decrease and slow down because of the proposals. He says young families are already starting to see negative equity issues.
“Simplistic solution to a complex national problem,” said the next speaker Professor David Hill.
There’s now a break in proceedings because not all the councillors have got all the paperwork.. the second home owners in the public gallery are quite confident that the council will vote against the proposal to take the discussions further. They say several Tory councillors are going to vote against the plan, as will all the Independents.
The first member of the public, Mr C Cole, says an increase would be “outrageous”. He says second home owners have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in the local economy and they wouldn’t have done if they had known this
was on the horizon. He says it’s “social engineering at the worse”. He adds that this is not some Eastern European dictatorship, it’s Yorkshire for god’s sake and “what your proposing is just not cricket”. There was even a little table thump towards the end.
The tax increase is approved. We are now on with the second homes debate. The first speaker is Cllr Richard Blows, who is speaking on behalf of Hudswell and District Parish Council. He says the council is not in favour of a five times increase.
Cllr Paul Cullen says the Independents only increased council tax by £6.70 over four years when they were in control.
First things first, they’re discussing how much Richmondshire District Council will increase council tax by in 2018/19. The Conservative leadership is backing 2.42% increase but the opposition are, er, opposing this increase.
We are at the Richmondshire District Council full council meeting tonight where councillors are discussing proposals which could see a big rise in council tax on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales. There’s about ten members of the public who have made their way through the snowy conditions to listen to the debate.
You can read some of the background to the debate here.
You can read the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s report on its proposals here.
Tonight’s meeting is taking place at Mercury House, Richmond.