Hounslow Green Party

Dave Wetzel and Sean Thompson spoke at a public meeting about Land Tax in Chiswick

16 January 2012

Introduction

Tom Beaton opened the meeting and introduced both speakers.

Dave Wetzel's speech

Dave Wetzel then explained that Land Tax is on the "location value" of a piece of land, not on the buildings on the land.  The location value will be different in different parts of the country, and will depend on the improvements that had been made around that land.  Better public transport and other capital investments in the neighbourhood would all increase the economic rent of a piece of land; these would be paid for by all of us but the benefit would accrue to the land owner.  For example, the Jubilee Line cost £3.5bn but the increase to surrounding land values was £13.5bn.  In another example a vacant plot in Brentford had increased significantly in value, with the benefit going to absentee land-owners, some not even in the country, whilst the plot had been unused for over 20 years. 

Land Tax would correct this by taxing the rent that could be extracted from a piece of land directly, meaning it would not make sense to hold land for speculation.  The tax would be fairer and easy to collect, and impossible to avoid since land can't be hidden.

The Green Party view

Sean Thompson explained that Land Tax was part of Green Party policy.  It was not a panacea for all ills, but should be seen as part of a holistic package of Green policies.

Questions

A number of questions were then taken from the floor:

  1.  Can Council Tax and business rates achieve the same ends? - No, as it is better to have a tax purely on the rental value of the optimum permitted use for a piece of land and not on buildlings.  However, it would be quite easy to shift local property tax from buildings onto site value only.
  2. Will Land Tax have an impact on property price inflation? - Yes, it will prevent speculation since there will be a cost if land is kept empty and not used at its optimum use.
  3. Only 70% of land in the UK is registered, how will the tax be collected? - Dave suggested that landowners be given 9 months to register the land, otherwise it would return to the community.  It would be wise to halt the privatisation of the land registry.
  4. What other countries have the tax?  - There are examples in Hong Kong, Pennsylvania in the US and in Denmark there is a local tax.
  5. What would happen if a house owner could not pay the tax?  - In Denmark the tax is deferred but attaches to the land, to be paid when it is sold.
  6. Is it fair to tax an improvement in land when it could have been the actions of the landowner who improved it, for example, Fords building a factory in Dagenham?  Ford's factory was a gift to local land owners.  In almost all cases it will be found that infrastructure improvements funded by government have increased the value of land.  For example, in Docklands, Dave Wetzel in his capacity of vice chair of TFL was involved in building the Docklands Light Railway, that greatly increased the value of land in Docklands.

Conclusion

Daniel Goldsmith, the Green Party London Assembly candidate for South West London proposed a vote of thanks.  

A collection was taken and the amount received was more than the room rent.  The excess (£13) has been given to the charity Hounslow Age UK.  Hounslow Green Party really appreciates the generosity of those who attended.

Speaker details

Dave Wetzel is President of the Labour Land Campaign and General Secretary of the International Union for Land Value Tax (Founded in 1926).  For eight years Dave was the first Vice-Chair of Transport for London and previously the Leader of Hounslow Council and Chair of the GLC's Transport Committee. 

Sean Thompson is a retired lecturer, community organiser and charity director of DART, a disability rights campaign established by Dave Wetzel. He is a member of the Green Party Policy Committee's economics working group and writes and speaks extensively on the current economic situation. He is the author of 'Countering the Crisis, an ecosocialist response to the global recession and the threat of climate change' and has just returned from a seminar at the IIRE in Amsterdam, where he presented a paper on the structural elements within the current energy and food price trends.

 







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