News: September 2012 Archives

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.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the News category from September 2012.

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