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By Graham Norwood

Editor, EAT, LAT & LLT

Graham Awards

OTHER FEATURES

Has the Stamp Duty Holiday extension campaign worked?

There is no scientific formula, no list of must-have elements in a successful campaign.

That’s especially the case for a campaign involving the property industry which - let’s face it - is not always looked upon favourably by the public.

But when Labour MPs this week spoke vehemently in favour of extending the stamp duty holiday, it seemed clear that this particular campaign had hit home.

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Of course we don’t know for sure if the Chancellor will do what most agents believe is the right thing, but the signs are encouraging.

This week’s special 65-minute Parliamentary debate on the subject, in response to a still-growing online petition, was expected to fracture along party lines.

Conservatives were predicted to back the call - gently at least, for fear of embarrassing their government. Meanwhile, Labour MPs were forecast to brand the whole stamp duty holiday as a tax break for homeowners who probably didn’t really need it.

But that didn’t happen, not by a long chalk.

The reason that Labour MP after Labour MP lined up to support an extension - and yes, this even included Diane Abbott - was because of campaigning.

Most Conservative and Labour MPs cited constituents who had contacted them either individually or collectively, saying they would be personally out of pocket. And of course an online petition allows MPs to see where signatures come from - with 140,000-plus signatures, that means a healthy number of signatories in each seat, including those where the MP won by only a few thousand or even just a few hundred votes.

The campaign may still turn to ashes but the minister who spoke for the government - Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury - gave just a glimmer of hope of movement on the issue.

He said the government in general and HM Treasury in particular would note the public’s views and MPs' views carefully, and would consider ‘substantial performance’ as well as ‘completion’ when looking at what to do about ending the stamp duty holiday.

Some observers have taken that ‘substantial performance’ element to be the possibility - just the possibility- of a tapered end to the holiday, where buyers who had reached a certain stage of their transaction would still get the SDLT discount, even if completion had to be after March 31.

So why has this campaign won significant support so far when others - for example, those seeking to turn back the tide of tax measures against landlords - have clearly failed?

I’d say there are six reasons...

1. It’s about people and fairness. The campaign’s success is precisely because it’s NOT been about estate agents or solicitors or surveyors. MPs in this week’s debate spoke of how unfair a cliff edge would be to those people - from first-time buyers to downsizers - who would lose out. The phrase “through no fault of their own” was used a lot.

2. It’s tightly focused.There’s clarity of purpose - this is about people getting their ‘rightful’ SDLT exemption, either by deferring the cliff edge to a later date or allowing buyers already part way down to road to get the benefit even if they complete after March 31.

3. There’s almost complete agreement amongst analysts - a few dissent, perhaps sometimes to grab headlines, but almost all agents and conveyancers, as well as major organisations from Zoopla to the Halifax called for some form of tapering or extension.

4. There’s clear messaging - it’s not difficult for anyone to understand that if you seal the deal by March 31 you benefit and if it’s April 1 or later you miss out.

5. Celebrity endorsement helps - Phil Spencer and the Daily Telegraph throwing their weight behind a campaign reaches people other than agents who read EAT or MPs interested in housing. In turn, that is reflected in MPs’ postbags and in public debate.

6. Finally, successful long term lobbying - well done to the agents’ trade groups, house builders and others from the industry who argued persuasively that it wasn’t just Foxtons, Savills and Persimmon that would benefit from a thriving housing market, but individual owners, the trades involved in the ripple effect, and the wider economy that would benefit too.

We’re going to have to wait until Budget Day, March 3, to know if all this worked for sure.

But it looks like a concession of some kind is coming, against the odds. Don’t take my word for it...just check out the comments of those Labour MPs.

*Editor of Estate Agent Today, Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn

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    Here is a devils advocate reply to the above.

    1, It’s about people and fairness. The campaign’s success is precisely because it’s NOT been about estate agents or solicitors or surveyors

    Whilst it's not about estate agents, solicitors or surveyors all these parties would benefit from an extension of 6 months as proposed in the petition.
    Its a tax that doesn't affect everyone. on an average year, It benefits around 4% of households once very 23 years, 35% of the adult population will never benefit from the tax holiday

    2. It’s tightly focused.There’s clarity of purpose - this is about people getting their ‘rightful’ SDLT exemption,

    The rules of the scheme were set in in July, some 9 months ago. They have not changed. The rightfulness of the scheme were not based upon date of the offer but date of completion. There has bee no evidence of any purchaser who has completed their sale being denied the benefit of the Stamp Duty Holiday.

    3. There’s almost complete agreement amongst analysts - a few dissent, perhaps sometimes to grab headlines, but almost all agents and conveyancers, as well as major organisations from Zoopla to the Halifax called for some form of tapering or extension.

    One of the major dissenters is Henry Pryor who even according to Phil Spencer in the interview promoted by Estate Agent today, gets more following from social media and requests for his opinion from main stream media than him. I am not surer Anthony Codling falls in the "trying to grab headlines category either". This debate is very much focused entirely around self -interested parties such as those mentioned. agents and conveyancers, as well as major organisations from Zoopla to the Halifax . There is no complaint from removal companies, home furnishing retailers that usually benefit from a "Boom" in the housing market.

    4. There’s clear messaging - it’s not difficult for anyone to understand that if you seal the deal by March 31 you benefit and if it’s April 1 or later you miss out.

    The only truism in the whole article. The message was clear from the outset as mentioned earlier.

    5. Celebrity endorsement helps - Phil Spencer and the Daily Telegraph throwing their weight behind a campaign reaches people other than agents who read EAT or MPs interested in housing. In turn, that is reflected in MPs’ postbags and in public debate.

    As affable as Phil Spencer is, his time as an agent was less than successful. Not sure that the Treasury and Mr Sunak are influenced by the opinion of TV personalities any more with respect to the opinion of ET. As regards MP's led by the former Chairman of Hunters who gave rise to the Saturday Newsflash only a couple of weeks ago, shows his level of true influence.

    6. Finally, successful long term lobbying - well done to the agents’ trade groups, house builders and others from the industry who argued persuasively that it wasn’t just Foxtons, Savills and Persimmon that would benefit from a thriving housing market, but individual owners, the trades involved in the ripple effect, and the wider economy that would benefit too.

    Sorry to state the blindingly obvious, but nothing has been achieved so far. The Treasury are not concerned with how money the individual owners can save. It is the cost to the Treasury that is their concern. There has been no headline grabbing news from any industries or trades involved in the ripple effect at all. No stories of purchasers who could make the deadline but there are no removal dates left, no new owners complaining of shortages of home furnishings, not a jot !

    A week on from the debate, not a further word has been uttered by the Chancellor or Jesse Norman about Stamp Duty, They were able to discuss over the weekend the change to the business loans and leak the some of the proposals contained in the budget that helps all businesses across the economy. But still no mention of extending the SDLT holiday?

    But when Labour MPs this week spoke vehemently in favour of extending the stamp duty holiday, it seemed clear that this particular campaign had hit home.

    Guess only time will tell







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