THE WELSH GOVERNMENT will put forward the vacant land tax idea to test the Wales Act 2014 powers, Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford has announced.
The Cabinet Secretary will set out the next steps for proposing a new Welsh tax as part of the tax policy work plan for 2018.
Since announcing a shortlist of 4 new tax ideas alongside the draft Budget in October, the Welsh Government has been examining the case for each of these.
The 4 tax ideas were: a social care levy, a vacant land tax, a disposable plastics tax and a tourism tax.
Although the vacant land tax idea will be used to test the Wales Act powers, work will also continue on each of the other 3 tax ideas.
The decision to take forward the vacant land tax idea follows engagement with stakeholder organisations, the public and across government.
A vacant land tax has been chosen both because it could help to incentivise more timely development, and because it could help prevent dereliction and aid regeneration.
Professor Drakeford said: “Housing is a priority for the Welsh Government. A tax on vacant land could prevent the practice of land banking and land not being developed within the expected timescales.
“The Republic of Ireland vacant sites levy provides a useful starting point for how a vacant land tax could work in Wales.
“The existing model in the Republic of Ireland and the relatively narrow focus of the tax make this the most suitable of the 4 shortlisted ideas to test the Wales Act.”
The Irish measure, announced in their government’s 2018 Budget, will mean that any owner of a vacant site on the register who does not develop their land in 2018 will pay the 3% levy in 2019 and then become liable to the increased rate of 7% from 1 January 2019.
If land owners continue to hoard land in 2019, they will pay 7% in 2020.
When the Welsh Government announced it was considering such a measure in October 2017, before the UK Government said it was considering a similar plan, the House Builders’ Federation raised the spectre of developers decamping en masse to England with their large projects. That threat, such as it was, has receded but the Federation of Master Builders is still concerned.
Speaking to BBC Wales, Ifan Glyn of FMB Cymru said: “If there’s a tax that’s introduced that can focus solely on land banking for financial reasons to maximise profits, we would absolutely agree with that.
“Our issue is we don’t see how this tax can differentiate between land that’s been banked for financial reasons and land that isn’t being developed or stalling for reasons outside the developer’s control.”
A further wrinkle in the system was identified by Dr John McCartney, Director of Research at Savills Ireland.
Speaking about what were then only proposals by the Irish Government to impose the vacant site levy, he said that increasing the vacant site levy to 7% could amplify “boom-and-bust cycles” in the construction sector.
Dr McCartney said that land is a raw material for developers and it is natural for them to carry a stock of development land.
“No developer will now carry a land-bank in a slow market. This means when a recovery follows developers will spend the early years on site assembly rather than the house building they could and should be doing,” he explained.
Responding to the announcement, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance spokesperson, Nick Ramsay AM said: “From the outset, Welsh Conservatives have opposed the ludicrous proposal for a tourism tax in Wales, one which would cause serious harm to businesses across the country.
“While we are pleased the Welsh Government has listened to us and decided against taking this idea forward, once the mechanism has been tested, we would not expect the Labour Government to return to the table with this proposal, one which has been widely criticised by the industry.
“Our vigorous campaign will continue until Labour’s Finance Secretary consigns this ludicrous proposal to where it belongs: the bin.”
Commenting on the decision to bring forward a potential vacant land tax, Mr Ramsay added: “On the surface, we welcome the fact that, as in England, the Welsh Government is exploring the viability of a vacant land tax but we await the full details of this proposal from the Finance Secretary.
“However, an important distinction must be made between land held for legitimate technical reasons such as detailed planning or a lack of skills and materials, and land which is held for purely commercial speculation.
“Speculation distorts the main purpose of releasing land for much needed development and it will be vitally important to fully consult with the sector to ensure the right balance is struck.”
The Range’s Swansea Store Shortlisted for ‘Best Christmas Display’
Christmas has arrived early for The Range stores in Wales, boasting gigantic displays of all-things festive! The Range is well known for going all out during the Christmas season to create a fun and magical experience full of trees, lights, decorations and much more for their customers to enjoy and this year is no exception. The Range in Swansea surpassed expectations with a display so great, it’s left them shortlisted for ‘Best Christmas Display’ out of all The Range’s 182 stores.
Swansea Building Society unveils bespoke mortgage product for medical professionals
Following extensive consultation with mortgage brokers and customers, Swansea Building Society has unveiled a new mortgage product specifically designed to offer medical professionals enhanced terms and a better deal.
The Medical Professional Mortgage Product is designed specifically for cases where the applicant, or one of the applicants in the case of a joint mortgage, is a medical doctor, surgeon or dentist. They might be looking to purchase a property, re-mortgage from another lender, or raise capital against equity in a property.
This new product also allows customers to borrow a higher amount against their income compared with standard mortgage products, subject to meeting affordability rules. Sole customers will be able to borrow up to 5.5 times their sole income (the standard criteria is a multiple of 4.5) while joint customers will be able to borrow up to 5.0 times their joint income (the standard criteria is a multiple of 3.5).
The new product was made available to customers from October 1, 2020.
Alun Williams, chief executive of Swansea Building Society, said:
“We are constantly reviewing what we do based on feedback from customers, brokers and our wider analysis of the mortgage landscape to ensure we are competitive where relevant in the current market.
“In this case, we wanted to develop a product that would reflect the current and future earnings potential of some of our clients who work in the medical profession. We are delighted to be able to roll this product out; we have already had very good feedback from our network of brokers.”
Simon Mayo to join Swansea local radio
BAUER MEDIA is proud to today detail a new local initiative that Greatest Hits Radio and The Wave will launch within Swansea and South Wales aimed at helping local workers, charities and businesses as they deal with the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Swansea Sound will lead the ‘Getting You Back to Work’ campaign, as it relaunches as Greatest Hits Radioin September. The scheme, which will also run across sister station The Wave, aims to promote local job opportunities both on-air and online. Local employers will be encouraged to submit vacancies for inclusion, allowing them to reach a wide audience of local job-seekers free of charge. Job vacancy bulletins will be broadcast four times a day to local audiences and will be promoted on the relevant Greatest Hits Radio and The Wave websites.
As Swansea Sound gets set to join the Greatest Hits Radio Network, it is also announced today that it will welcome esteemed broadcaster Simon Mayo to its line-up. The former BBC Radio 2 host currently hosts a daytime programme on Greatest Hits Radio’s classical sister station, Scala Radio. However, with this move he’ll be returning to his popular music roots as he presents a new weekend show. ‘The Album Show with Simon Mayo’ will be a weekly three-hour programme dedicated to the greatest albums of all time, including features that explore listeners’ record collections and a weekly Classic Album Countdown. This show aims to celebrate the good times and great memories albums bring as Simon plays their Greatest Hits.
Greatest Hits Radio, which will officially launch across Swansea and South Wales on 1st September, offers listeners the biggest songs of the 70s, 80s and 90s, celebrating music from iconic artists like Blondie, Queen, George Michael, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Elton John and Whitney Houston. The station’s presenters will include a local weekday line-up as well as legendary broadcaster’s Mark Goodier, Paul Gambaccini, Simon Mayo, Janice Long and Pat Sharp on weekends.
Online applications for the ‘Getting You Back to Work’ campaign will open on the 1st September 2020. Employers looking to participate should email firstname.lastname@example.org more information on how to apply.
Graham Bryce, Group Managing Director – Hits Radio Network Brand,said, “As we look to the future, we’re very excited to add Simon Mayo to our weekend line-up. Simon’s track record speaks for itself and to have someone of his experience and status join the network adds a new dimension to the Greatest Hits presenter line-up.
“Alongside this, our stations continue to be committed to the local community and we’re proud to launch this initiative to provide a valuable boost at a time of great uncertainty and hardship. We know the pandemic has hit communities across the UK hard, and we want to use our privileged position to promote opportunities.”
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