Martin Bikhit, MD of Kay & Co, meets Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Read the Chancellor’s reaction to reviewing stamp duty, short-term illegal lettings and Oxford Street’s pedestrianisation.
We had a surprise visitor at our office recently when Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond dropped by. No, he was not looking to buy a Marylebone townhouse, alas, but canvassing for the local elections in the company of Westminster city Conservative councillors Heather Acton, Antonia Cox and Nickie Aiken. Still, it was a great opportunity to bend the Chancellor’s ear – in a friendly way, I hasten to add – on a number of important issues.
Top of my wish-list was the need to review the present stamp duty regime, which is proving detrimental to the London housing market. The Chancellor’s view – with which we politely begged to differ – is that high levels of stamp duty are only impacting on the very top end of the London market. He was not keen on the suggestion, which some have made, that sellers rather than buyers should have to pay the additional tax. But he did seem open to re-examining the impact of high stamp duty on the market and looking at possible alternative ways of raising the tax. We found his readiness to listen encouraging. The stamp duty issue is not going to go away, and it is important that politicians at Westminster keep open minds on the subject.
He was also receptive about one of our current bugbears – the impact of illegal short-term lettings on the local community. Such illegal lettings have become far more common in recent years and, in our view, it may need tweaks to landlord-and-tenant legislation to put the matter right. Housing legislation is not in the Treasury’s remit, of course, but Mr Hammond clearly took on board what we had to say.
The final topic we discussed with the Chancellor was the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, which is getting ever closer, with the first street closures due to take place next year. We have generally avoided taking sides on the issues that have divided local residents in Transport for London’s blueprint, but did raise concerns with the Chancellor and his colleagues from Westminster City Council on the possible impact on Wigmore Street of large numbers of buses being re-routed there from Oxford Street. Again, he took our concerns on board.
All in all, it was a very positive and friendly meeting with a politician who seems genuinely willing to listen and change tack when necessary.
• Martin Bikhit, Managing Director of Kay & Co has more than 20 years’ experience in the prime and super-prime property sectors.
• Contact Kay & Co estate agents for details of properties for sale or to rent in Marylebone, Bayswater, Paddington, Notting Hill, Mayfair, Fitzrovia, Regents Park, The West End and King’s Cross (020 7262 2030; Kay & Co).