Annual Report 2015
Perhaps the highlight of the year was that one of our members, John MacDonnell, MP, is now the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Carol Wilcox, our Secretary, met him at the Labour Party Conference, and he said: ‘We’re going to get LVT’. We are planning to meet him in due course. So far, for obvious reasons, he has been rather busy.
Earlier in the year, on March 17, Yoni Higgsmith, our Communications Director, spoke at a debate on land ownership, along with one-time member, together with Kevin Cahill (author of Who Owns Britain?) and Tony Gosling of the group, The Land Is Ours, at the People’s Parliament (the establishment of which was initiated by John MacDonnell).
In August, Heather Wetzel (one of our Vice-Chairs) spoke at the IU/CGO (International Union for Land Value Taxation/Council of Georgist Organisations) meeting in Detroit about her updated pamphlet ‘Welfare for the Rich’. A lot of interest was shown about what was happening in the UK on LVT – Scottish Commission, Treasury Consultation, and the Labour Leadership contest, with two of the candidates, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn, both advocating introducing LVT on land occupied by empty buildings and idle development sites.
Liaison with Labour movement organisations
Carol was a delegate at the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) AGM on February 28. The CLPD supported Carol as a candidate for the Labour Party National Policy Forum representing the South West Region (the application was unsuccessful). We have since affiliated to the CPLD. At the AGM, Carol met the Political Officer for the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), Kate Purcell. At the time, she was heavily involved in court proceedings – especially, blacklisting – but she was interested in promoting LVT within UCATT.
In May, Anthony Molloy (our new Press Officer), David Hirst (one of our Vice-Chairs), and Carol ran a stall at the PCS (Public and Commercial Services union) conference in Brighton. There was a motion at the conference that included LVT which originated from a previous motion proposed by Chris Baugh (Assistant General Secretary, PCS), with whom Heather and Dave Wetzel (our President) met a couple of years ago. Baugh seemed genuinely interested in LVT. However, as with many other motions, it was not discussed due to the lack of time.
Jerry Jones (our Chair) and Carol ran the LLC stall at Tolpuddle in July with the help of Justin Robbins, Dave Wetzel and Heather. Louanne Tranchell and her husband Chris represented the LLC on the Tolpuddle march, displaying our banner. Literature sales raised £106. Tolpuddle is important because it allows time to make many contacts, including activists in rural areas. Many of the contacts we made at Tolpuddle lived in rural communities and were concerned about the state of agriculture and the shortage of affordable housing. There was a lot anger expressed about how second-home owners are pushing young people out of their villages.
In September, Carol and Jerry gave a talk entitled, ‘The case for a land value tax’ to the Birmingham Fabians. It was attended by 10 members, ranging from one who was very enthusiastic about LVT, to some who had never previously heard of it. It provoked a lively discussion, in which the usual red herrings were raised (why is it always the poor widow, but never the poor widower?). One blogger after the meeting gave all the right arguments for LVT, but then ended up saying that he was unconvinced. Another blogger (the one already keen about LVT) summarised many of the points raised in discussion. We hope to recruit him in due course.
Later in September, Carol attended the Labour Party Conference. She spoke with Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary for the first time, explaining that we had had a stand at their conference in 2014. He seemed interested in LVT and introduced Carol to Assistant General Secretary, Liz Snape, whom we will contact in due course. (We have since learned that she is in fact the next TUC President). The contact Carol had had for UCATT (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) had now moved to Unite. She therefore tried to find her replacement. However, it seems that the union is in financial difficulties (owing to the high cost of court actions on blacklisting), but they our contact details and we will chase this up. Carol spoke to some people at the Unite stand and was assured that LVT was already Unite policy, and she recruited Robin Green as a new LLC member. She also spoke with new MP Richard Burgon, who is a member of the Shadow Treasury team. He said he already had our green pamphlet, but he bought another. And, as noted above, she briefly encountered John McDonnell.
In November, Carol attended the Labour Assembly Against Austerity. She spoke to Mark Serwotka (General Secretary, PCS – Public and Commercial Services Union) mentioning an article which Carol had been asked to write for a PCS online magazine. It had been sent off, and it was acknowledged, but we never heard whether it had been published. It was particularly aimed at PCS workers in the Land Registry, HMRC and the Valuation Office. Serwotka said he would check up on this.
Carol also spoke to a Unite official who assured us that Unite supported LVT. They do – a motion was passed at their 2012 policy conference supporting LVT and advocating campaigning for it.
On March 5, Dave Wetzel and Heather met Claudia Beamish, MSP, to discuss replacing Council Tax and/or Business Rates with LVT in Scotland. She seemed genuinely interested and said she would report to Jim Murphy, the then leader of the Scottish Labour Party. They also met with Tommy Kane, policy advisor to Neil Findlay, MSP, who had expressed an interest in LVT, and James Mackenzie from the Scottish Greens.
Also in March, Dave Wetzel and Heather covered a stall at the Green Party Conference in Liverpool. This was paid for by the IU (International Union for Land Value Taxation), but we had LLC literature on display, too. The stall attracted a lot of interest – all appeared to have heard of LVT, some had a limited understanding of what it is, and some had good knowledge of and support for LVT. Dave also attended various meetings where he gave out leaflets. The video ‘The Killing Fields’ was shown in an evening session followed by discussion with Carlo Nero, Vanessa Redgrave, Fred Harrison and Peter Smith on the panel. Miriam Kennett from the Green Economics Institute (not Green Party) spoke to Heather about us writing chapters for a book she is compiling on Land Value Tax.
On May 5, Dave Wetzel and Heather met with Ashley Shackleton, Head of Public Affairs at the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) to discuss LVT, particularly as replacement for Business Rates. The meeting was quite positive and he knew a bit about LVT and certainly did not speak against it. Heather sent him a briefing paper on LVT and Business Rates since the BCC were planning to make a submission to the Treasury consultation on Business Rates.
In May, Heather, on behalf of the LLC, sent in a submission to the Scottish Government Local Tax Commission. In addition, Dave Wetzel and Heather sent in a personal submission based on the paper they wrote for their meeting with Claudia Beamish, MSP. Mark Wadsworth (our Research Officer) also sent in a personal submission.
In June, Carol, on behalf of the LLC, sent in a submission to the Treasury consultation on Business Rates. Dave and Heather Wetzel sent personal submissions.
In September, as a result of the LLC submission to the Scottish Commission on Local Tax Reform, prepared by Heather, Carol was invited to give verbal evidence to the Commission in Edinburgh (Heather being away throughout September). Andy Wightman (Scottish Green Party LVT supporter) was present as one of the Commissioners. There are links to the two sessions here:
In October, Dave Wetzel and Heather met with Jack Kiffin, Campaign Manager for London MEP Lucy Anderson. We had asked to meet Lucy to discuss LVT and transport, but since she is rarely in the UK, they met with Jack. He was particularly interested in housing and could see how LVT would help in making homes more affordable by bringing idle development sites and empty homes into use. He knew somebody involved in writing about housing policy for Sadiq Khan (Labour candidate for the forthcoming elections for Mayor of London) and offered to try and set up a meeting with him.
Also in October, Dave Wetzel and Heather met with Dilip Shah from the CBI. Anthony Molloy had made contact with Dilip who not only understood the benefits of LVT for businesses but also told us how CBI members in the main agreed LVT should replace Business Rates. However, he also told us that the CBI does not promote LVT with the Treasury as it is not ‘what they want to hear’. This was frustrating but as the debates on Business Rates go on, but we think it possible that we could pull the CBI into an open debate. Dave asked Dilip directly for the CBI to seriously consider including LVT in any future public statements, submissions or meetings with the Treasury, particularly when discussing reforming Business Rates, but he did not concede to Dave’s request.
In October, Anthony and Heather sent a submission on behalf of LLC to The London Housing Commission instigated by IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research), which set out to address the following key questions:
- How can we double the delivery of homes in London every year, and maintain high levels of housing delivery in the long term?
- How can we reconnect the costs of home ownership and renting to incomes in London?
- How can we provide a high quality private rented sector?
Later in October, Dave Wetzel and Heather met with Jack Giffin and James Murray (Islington Council) to discuss LVT and Housing for Sadiq Khan’s manifesto. James was concerned about valuing sites for LVT where a site with planning consent has another application not put in by the owner but which will affect the value of the site. Dave and Heather spent a lot of time on this worry. However, he did support LVT.
Dave Wetzel and Heather also met with Catherine West MP to discuss LVT and Housing. She was aware of what LVT is and seemed to support it.
In November, Dave Wetzel and Heather met with James Hall, Political Advisor to John Healey (Shadow Housing Minister), to discuss LVT and housing. He did not ask many questions about LVT but was interested to know reactions of other MPs, particularly former Shadow Housing Ministers. We sent him the paper that Heather wrote focussing on idle development sites and empty homes/other buildings.
Olly Rickard arranged a meeting at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), one time significant supporters of LVT. Heather, Olly and Carol met researcher Duncan McCann who is working on a paper on land and capital. Carol, Olly, Anthony Molloy and some other LVT campaigners later attended a seminar ‘Rethinking public assets: land and capital’ at NEF offices organised with Oxford University. One of our other members, Peter Smith, also met with Duncan McCann in December.
Mar 14: ‘Budget fails to address underlying causes of economic failure’
Mar 20: ‘Why does the government need to set up another review into business rates?’
Apr 13: ‘The Tory proposal to cut inheritance tax on homes valued at £1 million means even more subsidies for the rich’
Apr 17: ‘Tory manifesto shows contempt for low income families and another gift for private landlords’
Apr 17: ‘Buy-to-let landlords earn returns of up to 1,400% since 1996’
Apr 17: ‘The Liberal Democrats have said the party remains committed to reforming business rates if voted into government next month’
Jul 16: ‘Tory budget means even more welfare for the rich’
Sep 14: ‘John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and member of the Labour Land Campaign’
Nov 25: ‘George Osborne comes out for land value taxation! (Not really.)’
Jan 9: ‘The latest Tory housing policy gives yet more backhanders to developers’
Pamphlets and Leaflets
Heather has produced a new edition of her pamphlet, Welfare for the Rich: Who Really receives the biggest subsidies in the UK? which shows how tenants and the poorest of folk are subsidising the richest. Heather has also drafted two leaflets entitled ‘How Rural Communities Can Benefit from an Annual Land Value Tax’, and ‘How Public Transport will Improve with an Annual Land Value Tax’.
Power point talk
Anthony has produced an excellent PowerPoint-based talk on LVT intended for presentation to Labour Party meetings. Over 800 hits – the accompanying slides can be downloaded from the LLC website.
Yoni has given the access codes to the website to Olly who has been recruited to take over some aspects of managing the website.
Theory Group meetings
Feb 28: ‘Objections to LVT’, led by John Lipetz.
Jul 4: ‘Basic Income’, led by David Hirst.
Oct 31: ‘Strategies for Implementing LVT’, where the paper by Jerry and Carol, A Strategy for Replacing Council Tax and Business Rates with a Land Value Tax was discussed, along with papers by Heather, Mark, and Dave Wetzel, all of which are on our website.