Half-price council tax for second-home owners may be scrapped, says Meacher

Michael Meacher will propose scrapping tax breaks for second-home owners as part of the Government's drive to protect the countryside.

The Environment minister, who has a second home in the picture postcard village of Ampney Crucis in Gloucestershire, is planning to challenge ministerial colleagues with a plan to scrap 50 per cent discounts on council tax for about 500,000 owners of second homes in a rural White Paper.

Housing ministers have insisted that they have no plan to end the concession granted under the Tories and officials said last night that it was unlikely to be part of the forthcoming housing Green Paper. But Mr Meacher has told friends that the discounts, which are costing councils £164m a year, are "disgraceful and unjustifiable" and he would be raising it with colleagues.

Downing Street fears that curbing second homes could hit the middle-class voters. Mr Meacher caused consternation in the autumn when he floated the idea of using planning permission to curb second homes. But he has the backing of Labour MPs including Candy Atherton, who has many local people in her Falmouth and Camborne constituency who cannot afford homes because of the pressure on the market.

Some second-home owners can save around £500 on annual council tax bills. Those benefiting include many MPs who own homes in London in addition to properties in their constituencies. Cabinet ministers who have second homes include Jack Straw, the Home Secretary.

The taxpayer is having to compensate councils in areas such as the Cotswolds, Lake District, Peak District and the West Country, for the money it loses in local council tax receipts. Beverley Hughes, an Environment minister said: "If a local authority has a reduced tax base because it has a high proportion of dwellings subject to a discount ... it will receive more grant to compensate."

* Mr Meacher will defend the Government's "right to roam" legislation in the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, which is due for a second reading in the Commons today. The Tory environment spokesman Damian Green yesterday signalled his party would oppose it and back the landowners. He said Conservatives believed the best solution to enhancing access was to improve footpaths rather than "just let people on to land regardless of the effect on animal and plant life".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent