Opinion: Where for Land Value Tax after conference vote?

A week after the Lib Dem Conference debate on “Green Tax Switch Mark 2”, how does our tax policy look from an ALTERnate perspective (i.e. not Chris Rennard’s)? Well, I’ve almost sold out of my book’s first printing (would someone like to post a review on Amazon?) and most LVT supporters who were there agree that having Vince Cable claim membership of ALTER and fulsome support for its aims in his summating speech was worth more than any show of hands in the conference hall. [Reminder to self: ask Vince for a sub!]

Even Arnie Gibbons, who until recently used to move away – or mutter most foul – on hearing any discussion at Conference about Land Tax, was quite nice about us. We are accepted in polite circles – well Liberal ones anyway. Ten years ago, hardly anyone in the Party was listening. Now nobody can claim LVT isn’t Party Policy and the main task is to explain how to introduce it, not why. To an extent, the same applies in the other two main parties, which may surprise some Liberals. In Roof’s current special issue on Land, nine out of 19 contributors either admit – or are known – to be supporters, including David Curry (Con) and my good friend the late Brian Hodgson (Lab).

The reference back on Tim Leunig’s motion calling for Community Land/Planning Auctions was a bit of a surprise, so much so that I abstained. I find it hard to disagree with Tony Greaves, who reckoned it was certainly a poor motion and possibly a bad idea as well. What I fear about this latest wheeze for collecting ‘the unearned increment’ is that it will make people relax for another ten years on the assumption that “that’s LVT done”. Whereas for me a major advantage of any policy that could allow massive reductions in Council Tax (if it works – and there’s nowhere else in the world that has such a policy) is that it would also allow massive reductions in Local Income Tax. While local taxes were so low, inter-regional and inter-generational inequalities could be painlessly and far more effectively addressed through a national land value tax!

I don’t think we’ll hear any more about LVT before the General Election, expecially if it comes soon. I don’t retract what I said about Lib Dems not deserving the votes of the young because of their failure to retain a domestic property tax alongside “Axe The Tax”. But then neither does any party, unless they commit to serious property tax reform included a massive Green Switch.

I remain convinced that LVT can be a vote winner – if we package it carefully. As for Ming’s claim that we don’t commission opinion polls until we’ve decided policy – his reason for not having done polling on LVT’s relative popularity as compared to LIT – I note that Chris Huhne told us the polling figures on climate change before we voted for his excellent motion! And since Vince now says LVT is policy anyway, the argument doesn’t hold!

When I write to Vince shortly, I will suggest that he tries to persuade Chris Rennard to do some polling. Luckily for all of us, Lib Dems need to have coalition partners to get into Government. We can be quite sure that neither Tories nor Labour would be stupid enough to abandon domestic property tax, so it would seem quite reasonable to ask some non-party body to help pay for the polling we’ll need to graciously abandon Axe The Tax after the election and instead argue for what we know to be in the long term interests of our country. Chancellor Cable certainly won’t want to go down in history as the man who made a house price crash certain in 2009 by scrapping Council Tax!

Tony Vickers is chair of ALTER, the Lib Dem campaign for Land Value Taxation.

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This entry was posted in Conference and Op-eds.
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2 Comments

  • A house price crash? I thought the LVTers were claiming LIT would make prices shoot up?

    I fear on polling the answer will turn out to be Be Careful What You Wish For.

  • Henry George 28th Sep '07 - 6:58pm

    Scrapping property tax will inflate the property bubble further, making it more likely to pop rather than deflate slowly.

    Keep flying the flag Tony!!

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