Index

Editorial:

At the Green Economy fringes at the  Autumn Conference of the EWNI Green  Party we renewed our plea for contributions  for publication in this journal - and for  comment on articles published, or other  relevant issues, in the form of ‘letters to the  editor’.

Partly as a result, I am pleased to report  that three of the items for this issue have  been submitted by other members of the  group. This is an encouraging start; we will  see

At its AGM, the Party has passed the  motion below:

This Conference recognises that there is  currently a great deal of public opposition to  the Council Tax, and notes that other parties  are currently campaigning to either reform or  abolish the tax. Conference believes that it is  vital that the Green Party has a well-considered, coherent and comprehensible policy on  local taxation on which local parties and  activists can confidently campaign.Such a policy should recognise that: – Council Tax or its replacement must, taken  together with other taxation, be adequate  properly to fund public services; – there needs to be a fair and viable system  to redistribute tax revenues between different  areas; – all taxes, including any replacement for  Council Tax have to take account of ability to  pay; and – land is a finite and valuable resource and a  source of wealth that is particularly appropriate as a basis for local taxation.  Any taxes  levied on land and property should seek to  help encourage its responsible use, and should  not encourage environmentally destructive or  wasteful uses of land nor unscrupulous  profiteering from land speculation.

In addition, Conference also notes that Green  Party policy is currently to replace Council  Tax and Non-Domestic Business Rates with a  Land Value Tax (see EC791-793, and LD400-403), but this is also subject to a provision in  EC550-551 that communities will be free to  choose their own method of local taxes from  an (unspecified) range of options.

This Conference asks Policy Committee to  initiate a review of the proposals for Land  Value Taxation in the MfSS to see if this is  the best policy to bring about the aims given  above. The result of the review should be the  submission to Spring Conference 2005 of  either:

a) A detailed policy statement showing how  our Land Value Tax proposals would work.  Such a policy statement should consider how  our proposals will actually affect the money  paid by individuals on their properties (giving  examples, if possible), as well as making it  clear how these proposals differ from other  forms of land/property taxation.  It should  take account of the proposals put forward in  the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Green  Party on Land Value Tax.

or:

b) A motion with alternative policy proposals.

The policy review should also consider the  following:  i) whether or not the provision in EC550 to  allow local councils to select their own  method of taxation is both practical and  consistent with our general policy on Land  Value Taxation, and  ii) what role (if any) there should be for a  central government support grant to local  governments, and how adequately our current  policy provisions in EC551 address the need  for wealth and resource redistribution between different areas.

This is leading to intense e-mail debate  among a group of members formed following the passing of the motion. Others  wishing to take part should e-mail Brian  Heatley [[email protected]] to  request inclusion. Hopefully, it will result in  improved policy on this issue.

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The series of conferences on Green Economics which Miriam Kennet has organised  will be followed on 22 January next, by the  first under the auspices of the Green  Economics Institute – see details on page  143.opposite.

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I intend to bring a motion to next year’s  AGM to re-introduce monetary reform into  the Party’s MfSS – its Manifesto for a  Sustainable Society, i.e. its ‘bible’. Anyone  interested in developing this motion, a  synopsis for it, or a leaflet to distribute at  Conference in explanatory support for it,  please contact me.

– BL

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Letter written to Red Pepper in answer to  housing advice given by
“Agony Sumcomandauntie”:

Agony Subcomandauntie makes some  good points on housing (October  2004), suggesting campaigning to  defend council housing, squatting or  joining a co-operative. Good advice,  but the underlying problem needs to  be resolved before the right to good  housing is universally achieved.

When we speak of the price of  housing going up we are really talking  about the price of land, as labour and  materials for building don’t vary  much. Importantly, it is the economic  activity and very presence of the  community surrounding a site that  actually creates its value.

The answer to the housing crisis is  that this community-created land value  should be taxed and returned to the  community, thereby ending specula- tion and bringing down and stabilising  prices. Housing whether rented or  bought by individuals or co-operatives  would then be at prices people could  afford. From then on if subsidies were  still required they would be effective,  not, as now, immediately translated by  the market into higher land prices.

A land value tax (LVT), replacing  some other taxes, coupled with an  enhanced community involvement in  the planning process could be the  engine empowering local communities  to actually design a sustainable society  of their own imagination. Workers’  co-ops, permaculture schemes,  housing co-ops etc, instead of being  marginal, could become the norm.

Someone will no doubt reply to state  the case for land nationalisation, but  that would be a bureaucratic and  clumsy statist way of returning the  land to the community. The mechanics that I have outlined above are  a more precise and natural alternative,  which actually measures the contribu- tion made by the community to the  value of the land.

Martin Childs, Design Ecology  26October 2004

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