Author Archives: Joe Bourke

Crackdown on unfair Leasehold Practices

 

The Communities secretary, Sajid Javid, has issued a consultation to look at a range of measures to tackle unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold.

The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership and Carlex seek to represent the interests of residential leaseholders and end unfairness in this form of property tenure.  Carlex, the Campaign Against Retirement Leasehold Exploitation, represents the interests of retirement leaseholders. They provide the secretariat to the new All Party Parliamentary Group on leasehold and common hold, formed on September 7 2016.

Ed Davey MP, has been closely involved in the investigation of Cartel-like practices and Leasehold abuses in retirement homes.

England and Wales are unique in the world in perpetuating flat “ownership” in the form of a tenancy – leasehold – with all the vulnerability that that involves. Many who live in flats are young, old and single. Often knowledge of leasehold is very limited, and in disputes they are disadvantaged.

Posted in Op-eds | 20 Comments

It’s time for an All Party Parliamentary Group on Land Value Taxation

The rioting in Hamburg on the occasion of the meeting of the G20 this month highlights the oftentimes violent confrontation that exists between alternative theories of capitalism and socialism, as represented by the established orthodoxy and those that would seek to tear it down.

 At the heart of this conflict lies differing interpretations of economic theory, often depicted simplistically as left v right; Keynes v Hayek; socialism v capitalism; social liberalism v economic liberalism; or progressives v conservatives.

Henry George’s Progress and Poverty envisioned a capitalism that would allow all people to own the product of their labour, but that things found in nature, particularly land, belongs equally to all humanity. 

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Adult education and skills training

Since the election there has been much angst among Liberal Democrats over the party’s position on University tuition fees.

Martin Lewis is said to be among the most trusted source on personal finance with the general public. He has recently posted a detailed review of tuition fees arguing:

The student loan isn’t a debt; if we changed its name to the more accurate ‘graduate contribution’ this myth busting guide would be less needed.

What is missing, however,  from much of the debate over tuition fees has been the ongoing training needs of the 60%+ of school leavers who are unable or choose not to take a degree course.

Skill shortages are having a detrimental effect on the UK’s productivity and this needs to be addressed urgently in order to meet immediate economic and workforce challenges, including those arising from Brexit. The UK faces a particularly acute issue in the thousands of adults who lack English, maths and digital skills, creating a serious barrier to their progression in employment, training or education. This is compounded by the diminishing availability of adult education opportunities and the inequality of access to provision where it does exist. The current level of provision does not support the needs of our economy or our society. Add to this the pace of technological and demographic change and the need for a fresh new approach to adult skills and learning becomes crucially apparent.

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A progressive alliance round Land Value Taxation?

The Grenfell Tower fire has focused attention on the extent of the crisis in the UK social housing system.

Reverend Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty comments:

There are rows of empty “investments” in London, and the four big builders have 600,000 unused plots in their land banks.

The Liberal Democrat 2017 Manifesto included genuinely progressive housing proposals

  • a new national Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank,
  • increasing housebuilding to 300,000 homes a year
  • allowing councils to end the right to buy, lifting the borrowing cap and targeting “buy to leave” empty homes with a 200% council tax.
  • penalising land-banking with with a penalty on failure to build after three years of winning planning permission.
  •  a “community right of appeal” in cases where planning decisions go against the approved local plan.
  • a “rent to buy” model, where rental payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, leading to outright ownership after 30 years.

However, the manifesto incorporated only a single sentence with respect to LVT. “We will also consider the implementation of Land Value Taxation.”

Labour’s manifesto went a little further with respect to describing its LVT intentions promising:

 We will initiate a review into reforming council tax and business rates and consider new options such as a land value tax, to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long term.

The Greens promised “Action on empty homes to bring them back into use and a trial of a Land Value Tax to encourage the use of vacant land and reduce speculation.

The SNP have previously included LVT proposals in their manifesto and at their spring conference this year adopted a resolution “must include exploring all fiscal options including ways of taxing the value of undeveloped land” in its gradual land reform programme.  Other parties like Plaid and the Alliance Party have incorporated LVT proposals in the past.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 67 Comments

What does the latest Social Attitudes Survey say to Liberals?

The 34th British Social Attitudes survey has found 48 per cent of Britons would back the government increasing taxes to bolster spending, the highest support for such measures since 2004. Britons think the government should prioritise spending on health (83 per cent), education (71 per cent) and the police (57 per cent).

The key findings of the report are summarised broadly as a country that is becoming:

Kinder: after 7 years of government austerity, public opinion shows signs of moving back in favour of wanting more tax and spend and  greater redistribution of income. Attitudes towards benefit claimants appeared to have softened, with the proportion of people saying benefit claimants don’t deserve help dropping from 32 per cent in 2014 to 21 per cent in 2016, the lowest level ever recorded by the survey. People particularly favour prioritising spending on disabled people.

Not soft-hearted: the public in general continues to take a tough line on the response to threats at home and abroad. More than half of Britons want the authorities to be given strong powers to respond to terrorism and crime, and record numbers want defence spending increased.

After pensions being protected from austerity, the public are losing sympathy with the idea that this should be a priority for further spending.

The public takes a dim view of benefit fraud and tax evasion, with many thinking that exploiting “legal loopholes” is also wrong. Further, more people consider benefit fraud wronger than tax evasion. While the proportion who prioritise more spending on increasing the benefits for disabled people has risen, there is little support for more spending on benefits for the unemployed, perhaps because half of people think the unemployed could find a job if they wanted to. Only 16 per cent of those surveyed said they would back more spending on the unemployed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Irish Liberal Democrats and LDV St Patrick’s Day fringe at York

Theresa May dealt a blow to Ireland in her Brexit white paper when she said she wanted in effect to leave the EU customs union, confirming Brexit poses a huge threat to frictionless cross-border trade on the island of Ireland, the mainstay of the Irish economy.

The Irish Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Mulhall said last month that comprehensive customs and border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland are not remotely possible

Northern Ireland polled more europhilic than other regions in the UK before the election. Its Remain vote of 55.7 per cent was the third strongest in the country. Nationalists wanted the UK to remain in the EU, but unionists generally wanted to leave. Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists, Alliance and the Green Party wanted to stay. The Irish government also wanted a remain vote. The DUP, the TUV and the left-wing People before Profit party backed Brexit.

As Sinn Fein and the DUP jostle for position in a new power sharing agreement at Stormont the Brexit divide has come to the fore. If the parties are unable to agree an accommodation, we may yet see a return to direct rule of the province from Westminster.

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UK-Irish post Brexit relations

Malta assumes the presidency of the EU at the start of 2017. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, in setting out his priorities, has said the ‘Irish Border’ Issue must be settled before Brexit talks can begin in earnest, injecting some urgency given that talks are expected  to get underway in April next year.

Helpfully, the House of Lords EU select committee published a report this week titled Brexit: UK-Irish Relations. The report notes the special ties between the UK and Ireland and the friendship that has developed as the Northern Ireland peace process has advanced. Also noting that Ireland’s common membership of the EU has been one of the foundations of this close relationship.

The report draws attention to: the serious economic implications of Brexit for Ireland, North and South; the consequences for the Irish land border of potential restrictions to the free movement of goods and people; the
implications for the Common Travel Area (CTA) and for the special status of UK and Irish citizens in each other’s countries, including the right of people born in Northern Ireland to Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship; the potential impact on political stability in Northern Ireland; and the challenge to the
institutional structure for North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland, and East-West relations between the UK and Ireland, established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

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