I am aware that the hon. Gentleman raised a similar question with the Chancellor when the Chancellor was a Local Government junior Minister. The hon. Gentleman will know that we announced in the middle of last month that we are closing a tax loophole that allowed owners of second homes who claimed that their often-empty properties were holiday lets to receive small business rates relief instead of paying council tax. We are also committed to ensuring that first-time buyers are able to get on and move up the housing ladder.
Rural Britain’s housing crisis has become a catastrophe over the last two years of the pandemic. The Chancellor will know all about that, given the kind of constituency he represents. Some 80% of all house sales in the lakes and dales in Cumbria have been to the second home market, and in some rural communities there has been a reduction in the private-rented affordable market of 70%. Local families are being forced out of our communities. The need for drastic and immediate action is obvious, well over and above what has been said. Will the Minister agree—or will she agree to persuade her right hon. Friend the Chancellor—to meet me, as the Chancellor’s constituency neighbour, to sit down and look at seven steps for saving our rural communities, so that we can prevent our towns and villages being emptied of their full-time populations? That will surely include giving councils the freedom to double council tax on second homes.
I am happy to meet the hon. Member to discuss the points he raises. We have taken a number of steps to ensure that people pay the full rate of council tax on second homes—96% of second home owners pay the full rate of council tax. He will know that the Government introduced the higher rate of stamp duty land tax for those purchasing additional properties, and only last year introduced a new SDLT surcharge of 2%, to ensure that houses are available for local people at reasonable prices. I am happy to discuss this further with him.