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On behalf of the Professional Land Reform Group you are invited to a General Meeting of PLRG this Friday 31st May at 2.30pm. The venue is the School of Economic Science, 11 Mandeville Place (near Bond Street underground). As well as reporting on the past two years of PLRG activities, we will be planning the way forward. We are also looking for volunteers to help manage our website and mailing lists, also core funding to pay for essential expenses.

The current membership subscription is a 'suggested' £10 per year but that is one of the important matters to discuss this Friday. Meanwhile all those who have pledged to the video project are likely to be voted on as paid-up members of PLRG for the current year, in recognition of your contribution. If you have not yet pledged to this, it is not too late: there are only 2 days and £300 to go!

Here is a report on PLRG activities since May 2011.

Dr Tony Vickers
Honorary Secretary PLRG tony@landvaluescape.org

When people know something about Land Value Taxation, they are more likely to support it. That's the main finding of a poll conducted recently by Ipsos MORI for the Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ), an umbrella group of organisations wanting to see existing taxes replaced with a levy on annual land rental value.

 

Nearly 1000 people were asked a series of ten questions about how land values arise, what they know and think about council tax, and whether they would prefer to have just the land value of residential sites - not the value of the whole property - used as the basis of their property tax. They were not asked about other taxes. Nor were they told that a land value tax (LVT) wouldn't be additional to existing taxes but would replace them.

 

"We're pleased with the results of this poll, coming at a time of increasing interest in tax reform for a variety of good reasons." said Dr Tony Vickers, a land policy researcher who led the CEJ team that planned the survey. "Nobody cheers at the prospect of a new tax but what was encouraging about this poll was the attitude of people who claimed to already know a bit about this tax. Among those that say they are at all 'in the know' (one in eight), the majority (3:2) said it is 'fair' compared to a third overall among the whole population who thought that."

 

"These findings confirm our experience with students attending our courses in the science of political economy," said David Triggs, Chairman of the Henry George Foundation, which runs courses in central London.

 

PLRG's report can be downloaded here:- LVT poll_report.pdf

Notes to editors:

 

1.      Ipsos MORI conducted 986 interviews with British adults aged 15+ between 19 October - 5 November 2012, face-to-face, in home, as part of the regular Capibus service. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

  1. The poll was made possible thanks to a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.
  2. A private members bill calling for research on LVT, sponsored by Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion) and supported by Labour and Liberal Democrat back-benchers, has its second reading next week, on Friday 25th January.
  3. The Liberal Democrat Party is carrying out a review of its tax policies, with a draft paper due to be published for consultation by the end of January. The Party is already in favour of LVT "for the longer term" and specifically to replace business rates. It is expected that the paper will set out how other existing taxes might be reduced or replaced by introduction of LVT. Several Lib Dem cabinet members, including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, are associated with the Party's LVT campaign group ALTER (Action on Land Taxation and Economic Reform).
  4. Conservative Planning Minister Nick Boles is on record as supporting a 'land tax'
  5.  

We have a TAXING problem...

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Back in December, we reported the results of a MORI poll we commissioned on property & land taxes.
It showed that when people are given just a little information about the difference between taxing just land value and our existing taxes (like business rates and council tax), their attitude towards property taxes is likely to change.

We are now commissioning a video documentary to explain the "Land Tax Problem". But we need to raise £9,000 before the end of this month if we're to get the video made in time for the autumn party conference season, when tax is bound to feature in public discourse.

Please consider pledging a contribution to this now. We are using Crowd Funding. It is very easy - and there's more explanation of the aim of this project on the crowdfunder website, as well as our special website

The Taxing Question of Land

There is also a Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/taxingqofland and we tweet @taxingqofland

Please spread the word.

Be part of the Solution!

"Mega urban transport projects and land-value capture: a solution to infrastructure funding and investment in the UK" is the subject of a talk by PLRG Hon Sec Dr Tony Vickers at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, in the OMEGA Centre seminar series on 10th October.

The talk is free, because "Beneficiaries should pay" is the sub-title of the talk. OMEGA Centres are funded by Volvo; car manufacturers benefit from transport investment!

Details of the venue, including times, for the seminars are on the UCL site. If you can't make it, Dr Vickers' slides will be uploaded here.

Tony Vickers lectures to final year degree and post-graduate students on the role of "green taxes" in sustainable economics and the professions of the built environment, at Kingston University's School of Planning & Surveying. He is an independent researcher and lecturer, currently part of a Kingston University research team that is monitoring the Government's pilot of Land Auctions. He is available to lecture at other institutions in southern Britain.

There is a chance to influence the Coalition Government's attitude towards property tax reform next month. A Private Members Bill is due for its 2nd Reading on 9th November, calling for Government to commission research on the subject.

If you agree with us that reform of our property taxes could help economic recovery, by reducing the tendency to hold onto developable land and by providing a sustainable source of funding for infrastructure investment, please write to your MP. If enough MPs attend the House on 9th November, it will allow the Land Value Taxation (Research) Bill to progress, ensuring further debate on the subject.

A Bill calling on Government to commission research on Land Value Taxation has received a boost from grants to enable opinion polling on attitudes to property taxes to be undertaken. The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has awarded £5,000 to the Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ), of which PLRG is a member, to help pay for the opinion survey. Other CEJ members have matched this grant.

The Bill's promoter in Parliament, Green MP for Brighton Caroline Lucas, visited the Liberal Democrat Conference in her constituency last week to discuss how the survey results might help her. She met the Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP, who had just spoken in a debate on housing, calling for "site value rating - or something like it - to ensure that speculating developers cannot control the flow of new homes on sites that have planning permission".

To help fund PLRG's analysis of the polling results by MORI, you can donate online here - the 'donate' PayPal button is at the bottom of the page.

Calling all with an interest in major reform of Britain's property taxes. The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has tabled a Private Members Bill....

"to require the Secretary of State to commission a programme of research into the merits of replacing the Council Tax and Non-domestic rates in England with an annual levy on the unimproved value of all land, including transitional arrangements"

The Bill has the support of Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs. Its 2nd Reading (where a Bill and Explanatory Notes will be published) is on Friday 9th November.

It is almost exactly a year since the Conservative MP Nick Boles wrote in the Financial Times: "We should embrace a land tax". Boles was appointed Minister of Planning last week. His new colleague as Housing Minister is a chartered surveyor (land and development), another Conservative: Mark Prisk. With Liberal Democrat supporters of these reforms in positions of influence too - notably Dr Vince Cable at the Department of Business Innovation & Skills (in charge of banking reform and the Government Growth Strategy) - there has never been a better time for serious study of this subject, with a serious prospect of early reform.

Leading property tax expert and columnist in Valuer magazine Tom Dixon wrote last year: "Hard times make for hard decisions, and I believe the time has come to explore the introduction of a land tax. What are we waiting for?"

The answer: a Government prepared to take on the banks and the big home-builders, with their land banks. Given the right signals from Government, this network of researchers - the Professional Land Reform Group - is well placed to take on what Ms Lucas and her supporters in Parliament are calling for.

For now, we need to lobby our own MPs to make sure they turn up in the House to vote this Bill through, rather than return early to their constituencies as usual. We also, in PLRG, need volunteers to brainstorm what research is needed.

As an indirect result of the PLRG talk by Dr Tim Leunig on Community Land Auctions in April, close but "light touch" involvement in the Government pilot of this approach to planning for housing was secured through a contract between Department of Communities & Local Government (DCLG) and Kingston University. Meanwhile Dr Leunig has been helping his colleagues in the Liberal Democrat Party develop and promote more ambitious proposals than the Coalition Government is yet ready to consider.

We ended the report of Leunig's April 11 talk with reference to "a call for the evaluation of the [land auction] pilot[s]". PLRG Hon Sec followed this up and the upshot was a research contract awarded in June to Kingston University, under Professor Sarah Sayce, to do just that. The research team is about to deliver its first report to DCLG on the 'baseline' level of awareness of stakeholders in the land auction model and the status of participants and sites selected.

It was announced in last November's Housing Strategy that three areas of England had been chosen, after consultation with public bodies wishing to help develop the land auction idea for their own surplus land holdings. These areas are: Skelmersdale in Lancashire; Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire; and Hastings in East Sussex. It can now be revealed that the Councils in all three areas have formally approved participation in the pilots. More news will have to await further announcements from DCLG.

Dr Tony Vickers, Hon Sec of PLRG, brought the contract ITT to Professor Sayce's attention and is a member of her research team.

A policy paper for the Liberal Democrat Party, to be debated next week at its Conference in Brighton, includes a proposal that "willing local authorities" be allowed now to designate all or part of their area "as suitable to pilot Community Land Auctions ... and mediate a process [to] capture much of the rise in the value of the land when planning permission is granted". The paper also suggests that Authorities be allowed to approach individual landowners willing to sell their land, via auction, for housing.

These are just two of several proposals to ensure that the planning system delivers more new homes at "best value" to communities. A Vacant Land Tax is another, likely to generate a mini-debate of its own at next Wednesday (September 26, 2012) in debating Decent Homes for All.

James Robertson's new book Future Money: breakdown or breakthrough? appears just as the whole way we finance home-building and regeneration is under scrutiny. A series of 12 seminars in London looks at a "Commons-based Economy" much like Robertson's thinking.

"There can be few books more worthy of our time of crisis than this" says reviewer Dr Tony Vickers. "It sets out how reform of the money supply system links to reform of taxation "off income, profits, value added..." and onto "value subtracted ... for private profit from common resources..." and reform of public expenditure priorities, off "perverse subsidies" and instead into a "Citizens Dividend" that would replace welfare payments."

FUTURE MONEY review.pdf

See also details of the series of seminars in London (8th to 18th May) inspired by similar ideas and facilitated by James Quilligan.

 PLRG's second free talk of 2012 is next Wednesday at UCL's Bartlett School of Planning (Room 401, Wates House, 22 Gordon Street, LONDON WC1H 0QB) on the subject ...

Towards TIFs: Prospects and Pitfalls.

The speaker is Nick Maltby, partner at Bircham Dyson Bell (BDB) - a leading law firm specialising in property development.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a device for funding infrastructure development from the future property-tax revenue that it is expected to have created. It is commonly used in the US. The Labour Government signed up to it and now the Lib Dem / Conservative Coalition have adopted it here. It is already being used in Scotland but no TIF-funded projects have yet been instigated south of the border.

This talk will explain how TIFs work in America and what the UK and Scottish Governments are doing that is different. Maltby will outline the kinds of project where TIF funding is appropriate and how the parties to such projects (public and private sector) need to act to take them forward.

In last month's Budget, the Chancellor announced that £150 million would be available in 2013-14 for projects in the 'core cities'. This indicates that, although Business Rate revenue is supposed to be largely devolved to local authority control from 2013, Treasury plans to retain control over how any increased revenue from TIF projects is allocated. Otherwise, why not say "Let TIFs happen"!?

How will TIFs sit alongside other reforms in the October 2010 Local Growth White Paper? This said TIF would require legislation, to give new borrowing powers. Maltby has said no new legislation is needed. He has also expressed disappointment at the slow pace of the Coalition's moves towards TIFs.

BDB's July 2011 briefing on TIFs is an excellent preparation for Maltby's latest, exclusive take on the prospects for TIFs in England - which participants in next week's talk at Bartlett School of Planning can hear. To register your place, simply email tony@landvaluescape.org. Space is limited and priority will be given to PLRG paid-up members. Join at the event (subscription is £10 per year).

These talks are a partnership between PLRG and the OMEGA Centre at UCL.

 

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