Second homeowners in Cornwall urged to donate £400 energy rebate

If every second homeowner in Cornwall took part, £5.4m could be re-distributed from the “uber-rich”, who would hardly notice the payment, to people who desperately need help in one of northern Europe’s poorest regions.

Any comments from Rishi or  “No Handouts” Liz? – Owl

Steven Morris www.theguardian.com 

Second homeowners in Cornwall are being urged to donate their £400 government energy rebates to impoverished neighbours facing hardship this winter through a scheme launched on Friday and backed by business leaders, charities and politicians.

Those behind the Donate the Rebate scheme says that if every second homeowner in Cornwall took part, £5.4m could be re-distributed from the “uber-rich”, who would hardly notice the payment, to people who desperately need help in one of northern Europe’s poorest regions.

The number of people asking for food parcels in parts of Cornwall has increased by 75% in the past 12 months, while 1,500 people are in emergency accommodation and more than 21,000 are on housing waiting lists. At the same time property prices continue to increase, inflated by people from other parts of the UK snapping up homes as bolt-holes or as investments.

Rob Love, the chief executive and co-founder of Crowdfunder, which has set up the campaign and has its headquarters close to the beach in Newquay, north Cornwall, said it was a way of redistributing money from the “haves to the have-nots”.

He said: “In times like these, we cannot just rely on governments, charities or corporations: we need a more efficient way to redistribute wealth to those who really need it. We’ve got to get ourselves out of this national emergency and everyone has got to play a part.”

Love said he thought the government’s energy bills support scheme was “quite generous” but added: “It doesn’t get all the money to the right people.”

He pointed out that millions of pounds would be going to wealthy people – probably including some MPs – who owned properties in Cornish second home hotspots such as Rock, St Ives and St Mawes. “We’re not against second homeowners. We’re not angry with them and we’re not hassling the government. We are providing a mechanism that gets the money to the right places.”

Second homeowners who want to take part are being asked to go on to the Donate the Rebate site and specify the Cornish charity they would like their rebate to go to. Love said Cornwall was the obvious place to start but he hoped to expand the scheme to other places with lots of second homes.

Monique Collins, the manager of Disc, a drop-in and share centre in Newquay, one of the organisations that will benefit from the scheme, said it was currently helping providing food and help with electricity bills to 98 families and 55 single people – an increase of 75% on this time last year – and she expected the number to double this winter.

“I’m dreading the autumn and winter,” she said. “We’re heading for a catastrophe. Newquay and places like it have become a playground for the uber-rich and they need to contribute.”

Harriet, 23, who uses Disc, said her situation was “dire”. The mother of a 15-month-old boy, Noah, said her electricity bill had trebled since March. “I don’t know what I’m going to do this winter. It may be a choice between food and power. Already I haven’t been able to do a proper food shop since May. I make sure Noah has his food but then buy bits and pieces for me as I go along.”

She said she got angry when she walked around Newquay and saw people in luxurious second homes. “It’s so unfair. Expensive apartments are being built when what we need is affordable homes.”

Julian German, a Cornwall councillor whose patch includes St Mawes, said: “We have an obligation to our neighbours who are struggling, to help them where we can. The poverty some people are facing in Cornwall is astounding.”

Kim Conchie, the chief executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, said: “People shouldn’t have to choose between feeding their families or turning the heating on this winter. We have got a fundamental disparity between people who live here and those who have second homes here.”

He said he believed many people who had visited second homes for years and had made connections in the community would donate – but accepted that hard-nosed investors looking to make a profit out of a Cornish property might be harder to reach.

“Second homeowners have a duty if they are going to benefit from the wonderful place we live and work in to contribute. I think this is a fantastic moment when they can really make a gesture. Every second homeowner should be doing this, to salve their conscience and make a difference.”

Details of the campaign can be found at www.poor-nextdoor.com.

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