Friday, July 13, 2007

Size Doesn't Matter

A sad but irritating story in the Liverpool Daily Post this morning. Am I just humourless or are the continuous little digs at Hazel Blears size annoying? We should surely judge ministers on their achievements. Gordon Brown has just given the new Communities secretary a huge task; to solve the housing crisis. if she achieves it she will be a political star. Many have tried before and failed but with the priority given to housing by the new Prime Minister we should be under no illusion that this time they intend to succeed. One item I would like to add to her in-tray is empty homes. Surely England’s 300,000 long term empty homes should be a priority source of some of the 3 million new homes the government rightly says we need.

The Empty Homes Agency is today calling for the government to

Take away the incentive for speculators to buy to leave by abolishing the council tax discount for empty homes and giving local authorities the flexibility to double the council tax on long-term empty homes.

Harmonise the VAT on refurbishing empty homes and building new homes. Making it more affordable and cost effective to renovate derelict homes. Currently new homes are zero rated for VAT, refurbishing most empty homes is rated at 17.5% VAT.

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