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Labour will tackle the tax haven off-shore empty homes blight

06 April, 2018

Properties along Bell Street, NW1, lying empty for over 15 months since refurbishment

­FRANK Dobson is right to say that: “A major cause of the housing problem is tax-dodging, money-laundering, for­eign billionaires buying property and leaving it empty” (‘We can create space to build new homes’, March 23).

In this regard you do not have to look any further than the City of Westminster where we have almost 10,000 properties registered in off-shore tax havens.

That is a shocking one-in-10 properties in Westminster is owned through an off-shore company, with the identity of who controls many of them currently unknown.

This situation exacerbates the significant problem of housing under-occupation Westminster faces, where properties that previously ­housed local families are used only a few times a year by overseas investors. Such investment also plays a part in the, often under-reported, ownership of empty homes in the city.

Labour will push for the Conservative government to finally deliver on its long overdue pledge to provide a proper register of overseas beneficial ownership to help limit the acquisition of West­minster’s homes by off-shore companies on behalf of the world’s oligarchs.

A Labour-led council would work with civil society to shine a light on such dodgy practices and work to stem the flow of dirty money into Westminster’s property market that brings shame to our city.

We will campaign for greater transparency over the ownership of empty homes and we would use the proceeds of the “Empty Property Premium” to council tax to pay for a dedicated empty homes officer, while lobbying the government to increase the rate of this tax on homes left unused.

So you can expect a Labour-led Westminster Council, working with the National Crime Agency, to issue “unexplained wealth orders” of owners of estates like the cricketers estate on Abercorn Place, St John’s Wood where we have an old council estate becoming a private estate for one sole individual and his family.

So action on off-shore ownership that harms our local communities is another reason to vote Labour in the local elections on May 3.

MURAD QURESHI
Labour candidate for Little Venice ward
@LabourforLV
www.muradqureshi.com

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