20 pounds bank of england
Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash

For too long, offshore companies have been able to buy up property in the UK without revealing their true owners – hollowing out communities and masking potential corruption.

At the Co-operative Party, we know ownership matters, and that’s why alongside the Labour Party our members successfully campaigned for the introduction of a Register of Overseas Entities to unmask these secretive owners and provide essential transparency.

We also helped ensure this Register came with a quicker deadline that gave property owners just six months to register, rather than the 18 proposed by the Government. That deadline passed yesterday.

As of last weekend, only an estimated two-thirds of overseas owners had registered. Of those, nearly three thousand companies are offshore trusts – who due to a loophole still don’t have to name their ultimate owners, although they must tell HMRC.

The issue of offshore ownership isn’t limited to super-mansions in London – it affects communities up and down the UK. Thousands of high street shops are owned by overseas investors, with those units twice as likely to be vacant.

Lack of ownership transparency makes it impossible for communities and councils to hold landlords and investors to account, or work with them to lead change.

As well as being vital to implementing sanctions and stopping tax avoidance, knowing who owns British property is vital to providing a fair playing field for British businesses and communities too.

This shows why the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill that has been passing through Parliament this week is so important, and why we need to keep up the pressure for future changes to the law too.

From giving Companies House more powers and resources to tackle economic crime, to closing loopholes in our tax laws, and ending the disadvantages experienced by co-operatives compared to other business forms to truly level the playing field – we need action to ensure that tax avoiders, money launders and others who undermine British businesses and communities have nowhere to hide.