I am delighted that Chris has opened up this particular debate as it homes in on an issue close to my heart, and one which could have significant benefits in Herefordshire (and elsewhere) in opening up multiple opportunities for sustainable activities with considerable community and environmental value. At a time when we face serious cuts to jobs and public services (Why are we allowing ourselves to be conned into accepting these, especially as over £100 billion is lost to us through tax evasion, avoidance and offshore tax arrangements, which could easily cover the shortfall?) there is a desperate need for affordable housing, and Cameron talks of the ‘Big Society’ and devolving power (heard that somewhere before?), surely the time has come to look at radical measures. This is one that needs to become mainstream and supported by us all.
The Green Party has had a policy on Land Value Taxation for many years, formerly called Community Ground Rent. It is based on our understanding that land is the primary source of all wealth, it is our common heritage and should be held in trust for future generations and other species. We believe it should not be treated as a capital investment or traded for speculative profit: this has been the source of its exploitation and degradation over time.
No-one should have absolute control over land, only particular rights over use, and these should be controlled by the community through planning regulations. A clear framework is needed which puts a priority on the natural environment, encouraging sustainable use and discouraging unsustainable exploitation. The tax would be payable on annual value of land, not buildings, development or minerals. It would be levied locally and based on current permitted use, so if use is limited because of amenity or habitat value, then tax would be reduced.
Unearned benefits should be shared with the community and this can be done through Land Value Taxation, which should not be on top of other revenue raising measures but replace some of them.
Some of the many advantages of this system are: benefits for the majority, rather than a minority; offers incentives towards good stewardship; reduces corporate ownership; contributes to a decentralised, sustainable society; eliminates speculation and stabilises prices; more and cheaper land would become available, offering opportunities for community initiatives such as housing trusts, worker co-operatives, community supported agriculture schemes and other small scale enterprise.