Buy-to-leave property investors and other absentee owners blamed for falling numbers of voters in many wards in Westminster.
Electoral registration figures released this week show that six wards in Westminster have fewer people registered to vote today than there were in 2002. In Knightsbridge and Belgravia ward there are nearly 700 fewer voters, West End ward has lost 468 voters and Abbey Road and Bayswater wards have lost over 300 voters. Tachbrook and Marylebone High Street wards are down by just under 300 voters each.
However, figures from the 2011 Census show that in four of these wards there are more separate dwellings than a decade ago. Four wards have managed to lose voters while gaining homes: West End, Bayswater, Abbey Road and Marylebone High Street wards. Four wards in Westminster have more dwellings than voters: West End ward by over 1,300, Bryanston and Dorset Square ward by 385, Hyde Park ward by 369 and Marylebone High Street ward by 12.
Not everywhere in Westminster is losing voters. Electoral registration has increased significantly in some parts of the city, mostly in north Westminster and Pimlico – Harrow Road ward has 1,217 more voters, Vincent Square ward has 974 more, and three more wards have added at least 800 voters – Church Street ward (845), St James’s ward (842) and Queen’s Park ward (811).
Labour Councillor David Boothroyd, Westbourne Ward, said:
“We’re now seeing in electoral registration statistics the facts which many people have seen on the streets: many homes in Westminster are not lived in by families who are part of the local community, but are being used as just investments. Super-prime new property in Westminster is sold in Hong Kong and Dubai, not London, and then left empty – to be sold a few years later at a profit.”
He added “The Council could take action. The Council could impose a council tax surcharge on empty homes, as Labour has been urging since the law allowed it. And the Council could make sure planning policies and decisions deliver homes which people want to live in, not speculate on.”
The electoral register figures are for local government electors. Commonwealth citizens and European Union citizens are entitled to register to vote in local elections.
Here is a table showing the full data.