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Census shows Wales’ second homes ‘problem’ is not straightforward

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RESULTS from the 2021 Census show Wales’s “second homes problem” is not as straightforward as activists believe.

In key tourism areas, many second homes are owned by those with home addresses in the same county or within Wales.

That undermines several assumptions underpinning the Welsh Government’s and nationalists’ rationale for targeting second homeowners with increased levels of Council Tax. It also suggests that their Welsh owners use properties registered as second homes as undeclared holiday-letting units.

Much of the heat in the second homes debate arises from fears that “incomers” (code for English residents) exploit low Welsh property prices to enrich themselves and price locals out of property markets. There are undoubtedly areas of Wales where that is the case – particularly in places like Abersoch in North Wales or, in Pembrokeshire, along the St David’s Peninsula and Tenby.

However, the census statistics show that 7.5% of homeowners in Gwynedd – where the campaign against second homes is hottest – own second homes. Not all of those second homes are necessarily in Gwynedd or Wales. However, home ownership patterns suggest that a significant proportion of those declaring a second home own them within a short distance from their primary residences.

The number of homeowners who declared second homes varies between Welsh counties in a semi-predictable pattern.

Census data produced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows the following:

Carmarthenshire recorded a population exceeding 180,000. Around 6,100 declared a second home, 760 outside England and Wales.

Of around 73,000 individuals in Ceredigion, just under 6,500 declared they owned a second home, with 815 homes outside England and Wales.

In Pembrokeshire, the Census recorded a population of just under 119,000. Over 4,200 reported second home ownership, of which 745 are outside England and Wales.

Gwynedd showed that 7,800 declared a second ownership out of a population of 108,000. Over 1,100 of those second homes are outside England and Wales.

Converting those figures into percentages and ignoring those homes outside the UK shows that Ceredigion is a huge outlier in second home ownership. 7.8% of its population own second homes in England or Wales. The corresponding figure for Pembrokeshire is 3%, for Carmarthenshire, it’s 3%, and for Gwynedd, it’s a fraction above 6%.

Cardiff is the only Welsh Council area that exceeds Ceredigion for second home ownership in England and Wales, where 8% of the permanent population own such properties.

Comparing that data with Council Tax records shows the following:

Carmarthenshire reports 1,100 second homes, although this is likely an underestimate.

Ceredigion records 2,120 second homes or holiday lets.

Pembrokeshire records 3,800 second homes or holiday lets that are charged a premium and a further 422 which are not.

In Gwynedd, the figure is 3,750 second homes whose owners pay a premium and an additional 975 second homes not charged a premium.

The Isle of Anglesey has the largest percentage of second homes as a proportion of housing stock.

Comparing second home ownership rates and Council Tax data suggests a strong correlation between the number of people who own second homes and those who live within the local authorities covered above. In other words, those affected most by a second-home premium are likelier to live in Wales than come from outside its borders.

In Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire, the data suggests property flipping to avoid Council Tax is not solely the preserve of greedy incomers capitalising on lower property prices. The same data suggests that new legislation trying to register properties in the right category faces a major obstacle separating second homes owned by residents from those held by predatory speculators.

The Welsh Government places the onus for overseeing the administration of Council Tax premiums and the correct registration of holiday lets onto Welsh councils. How local authorities can fund those functions, let alone carry them out, without significant extra resources is open to question.

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Milford Haven: Police investigating sexual assault

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POLICE are investigating an incident of sexual assault which occurred in Hakin, Milford Haven.

Milford Haven Police say that the alleged incident took place in Croft Avenue on February 7, 2023 at around 19:50hrs.

If anyone is able to give any information regarding this incident please ring 101 quoting reference DPP/0956/07/02/2023/02/C.

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Pembrokeshire County Council faces less bleak finances than previously expected

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL faces a less bleak financial position than had previously been expected, to the tune of nearly £10m, members of a schools committee have heard.

At the February 6 meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack, presented outline draft 2023-’24 budget proposals to members.

He told members an updated draft budget was to be reported to the February meeting of the council’s Cabinet after a previously feared funding gap of £28m was now smaller, at £18.6m, due to a higher settlement from Welsh Government.

An expected 3.5 per cent settlement ended up being 7.9 per cent, which meant some expected cuts were now unlikely to happen, he told committee members.

“A large number of the most severe cuts are now very, very unlikely; we’re now looking at a deficit of £18.6m, it’s not as severe as it was.

“The officer team is looking at how that funding gap could be closed with budget savings and with different levels of council tax.”

Members heard the budget is expected to be addressed through an increase in council tax – potentially in the area of 7.5 per cent – along with significant cost reductions.

Director of Resources John Haswell said: “It was a better settlement, but still an £18.6m gap; this isn’t a one-year issue, this is an issue over the medium-term plan, over £50m over the four-year period.”

He said that Pembrokeshire, having the lowest council tax rates in Wales, meant that each potential percentage increase returned less than other local authorities.

Members heard papers listing the latest budget proposals for Cabinet discussion are expected to be released soon, in advance of the February 13 meeting.

Members agreed to defer making any recommendations to Cabinet, pending the release of the revised papers.

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Welsh Freeport competition heats up with Senedd vote

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ON WEDNESDAY, the Senedd will hold a debate regarding freeports as the competition for UK and Welsh Government funding nears its conclusion.

Currently, three bids are in from across Wales for a chance to benefit from £26 million of direct UK Government funding, as well as reduced taxes for businesses in the freeport area. A Welsh freeport could see up to 16,000 jobs created and further investment or the local area into the billions.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS said:

“Benefits of a freeport cannot be understated, bringing much needed jobs and investment into some of the most deprived areas of Wales.

“The UK Government put the challenge to Wales to submit exceptional bids, and Wales has delivered.

“All three bids would help to transform their local communities in different ways. It’s essential that the UK and Welsh Governments work together to deliver that second freeport for Wales, maximising the opportunities that these bids have to offer.”

The three Welsh Freeport bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport (covering Pembrokeshire to Neath) which has estimated that it would create over 16,000 new jobs and up to £5.5 billion in new investment.
  • The Anglesey Freeport would support up to a £1 billion contribution to UK GDP by 2030, while also creating up to 13,000 new, high salary jobs in Ynys Môn.
  • The Newport Freeport (including Cardiff Airport) is aiming to increase non-passenger revenues to 50%, ending their reliance of passenger generated income.

The UK Government stated that “if a truly exceptional proposal were presented at the bidding stage” than a second freeport would be funded.

The Welsh Conservative debate reads:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Recognises the opportunities for freeports to energise the Welsh economy, create high quality jobs, promote regeneration and investment.

2. Notes that three bids from Wales have been submitted for consideration by the UK and Welsh Governments.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to deliver two freeports in Wales, recognising the truly exceptional proposals submitted and the transformational benefits they can deliver for the Welsh economy.

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