MPs Column

It was a great honour to receive a trophy on behalf of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and the many volunteers who have personally ensured that Manx Shearwaters can succeed on Scilly. Manx Shearwaters are extremely special seabirds and are breeding on the Isles of Scilly, one of only two locations in England where breeding colonies can be found. Because the birds nest in burrows the young are at great risk from rats. The trophy, presented to me in Parliament this week, recognised that this seabird has recovered more rapidly than other species of concern and this success is because for several years people on Scilly have cleared all litter and eradicated all the rats on St Agnes and Gugh resulting in successfully fledged young for the first time in living memory. There is more to do and more money is needed to clear other islands on Scilly as part of the Seabird Recovery Project. I look forward to the next chapter.

You can see these amazing birds for yourself throughout the summer time on a number of boat trips that take you out around the islands.

Many of you will know that I raised the prospect of bringing an end to the practice of holiday-let properties being exempt from the council tax charge whilst benefitting from full business rate relief. I first raised the need for this in 2015 with the then Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke, and with his two successors since. Figures I received early this year suggest that there are 6,650 properties in Cornwall that pay neither council tax nor business rates. I am a firm believer that taxes should be simple and fair and that there should be a benefit to the local community. Ensuring that council tax is chargeable to every property intended for residential use is simple, fair and would benefit the whole community, including those who visit. I was advised by Cornwall Councillors that the Government ‘refunds’ Cornwall Council the loss of council tax revenue. According to the House of Commons Library this is not necessarily the case. What I am certain of is that our town and parish councils and Devon and Cornwall Police receive no money to cover the funds they lose due to this relief. The increasing work that our town and parish councils do to keep our communities tidy and our toilets open is a benefit to everyone including our visitors. The work our police do to keep us safe is a benefit to everyone including our visitors.

Assumptions are made about what money is available to councils and the police to provide frontline services based on the number of residential properties in an area. It is only fair that all properties built for this purpose can contribute to these services although I recognise not everyone supports this view.

Should the Government consider this proposal it is worth pointing out that properties built as holiday accommodation, including on farms (where farmers have been encouraged to diversify), would not be affected.