Following numerous meetings with Government, officers and politicians, Plaid Cymru Gwynedd is delighted that the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Julie James, has listened to concerns that second home owners who have deliberately transferred to business rates to avoid paying taxes, could have accessed business support grants.
Plaid Cymru’s Gwynedd Leader, Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn (pictured) said: "We are pleased that the Minister has listened to us and changed the business guidelines available to support small rural businesses in Gwynedd and other counties across Wales.
“It would have been unethical for individuals who own second homes to access this financial support package from the Welsh Government. It would go against the whole ethos of the support aid, a package to ensure a viable economy in an uneconomic period.
“Here in Gwynedd alone, it could have meant a fund of between £15m and £18m worth of public money spent at a time when there are severe financial pressures as a result of dealing with Covid-19.”
Although Gwynedd Council officials submitted a clear guideline that would deprive those who let their second home for a period, in order to avoid paying Council Tax, the civil servants decided to take a different approach.
The Government's new guidance states that three specific clauses need to be adhered to:
- self-catering accommodation produce two years of trading accounts to 31 March 2019
- self-catering accommodation must let the property for a period of 140 days or more in the financial year 2019-20
- self-catering accommodation business must be the primary source of income for the owner (minimum threshold is 50%).
Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn said: “The Minister has stated that payment of the grant is at the discretion of each council. I would like to confirm to Gwynedd small businesses, whether they are a farm that has converted an outbuilding to a holiday let or a family that has converted a former family home into a holiday accommodation business; that we will look favourably at supporting you. These types of businesses that offer valuable provision within the county are the ones we should be supporting during these challenging times.”
This grant is to be used to support small businesses in Gwynedd that have been directly affected by the Government regulations that prevent companies and businesses from trading. It is a non-domestic grant available to retail, leisure and hospitality businesses that own a property.
Leaders of other county councils across Wales supported the work of Plaid Cymru Gwynedd in lobbying for change to the guidelines. These included Anglesey, Conwy, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire county councils, where a high number of second homes exist. There have also been numerous discussions through the Welsh Local Government Association and with Plaid Cymru politicians.
Siân Gwenllian, Plaid Cymru's Assembly Member for Arfon, said: “I congratulate Plaid Cymru’s Gwynedd Leader, Dyfrig Siencyn and Gwynedd Council officials for their commitment in pressing the Government for social fairness surrounding this issue. Ensuring that public funds are used to support bona fide holiday let businesses is important to the rural economy across Wales.
“Plaid Cymru has been lobbying the Government for legislative changes in this area. It is abhorrently clear that there is a loophole in the law and I will continue to work with Plaid Cymru Gwynedd and the council to convince the Labour Government that permanent change is needed to avoid situations like this arising again and again.”