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The LVTC blog, by Henry Law

The comments in the LVTC Blog are a personal view of our Hon. Secretary Henry Law and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Campaign.

This is a place for personal observations and comments on politics, economics, current affairs, on-going discussions on the potential for LVT to remedy some of the current ills, and the impact on Society of any of the above. 

Please read and enjoy, and feel free to respond to Henry if you have any thing you would like to add.

What are the duties of government?

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Later this week comes the budget and its much-trailed cuts. There has, sadly, been little discussion in this particular connection of what government is actually FOR. This is strange because in a more general way the subject is hotly contested, with a strong argument being put forward that governments are entirely unnecessary.

What are the prospects for LVT in Britain?

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The past few months have seen a flurry of activity which has probably helped to bring LVT more public attention more than for several decades. Notably, it was espoused by one of the candidates for the Labour leadership and there were three articles in the Guardian.

The first two articles were vague to the point that it was unclear what was being proposed. The third of the articles, by Mark Braund, was more explicit. All three unleashed a torrent of objections which all those who are advocates of LVT would be well advised to scrutinise. These objections fall into three main categories, and they come from both ends of political spectrum.

QE back on the agenda - £ drops to record low

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The first bout of quantitative easing having achieved nothing useful, there is now discussion about restarting this policy. One effect seems obvious - the £ has dropped from about SEK 14 in 2006 to SEK 11.7 in June to SEK 10.7 today, a record low.

Wisdom has it that this is good for exports but there is no sign of any more British goods in the shops in Sweden. There are a few newspaper articles promoting the UK as a travel destination but that's about it.

If I were you I wouldn't start from here

One effect of the loose monetary policy has been to keep UK land prices at an excessively high level, and regular visitors to this site will know what that does. We suggest that the authorities are getting their policies completely wrong, but then again, our advice would be not to start from here.

Government ducks Council Tax revalautions

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There will be no revaluation of Council Tax bands in England during the current parliament, the coalition government has said. This looks like cowardice but we should welcome the news nevertheless. Council Tax is a badly conceived property tax and investment in a revaluation would have simply provided another excuse for avoiding the real reform that is needed.

Highest and best use

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It is generally suggested that for LVT valuation purposes, it should be assumed that the land is in the "highest and best use in accordance with the local plan". I would question this. Should it not be "existing use or on the assumption that developments in accordance with planning consents have been completed"?

This gets rid of all room for doubt. It also means that valuations must be Annual Rental Value not Capital Value. Anyone, including the local planning authority itself, can make a planning application on another's land so this is not going to encourage anyone to sit on undeveloped land.

Whither welfare?

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In Britain as elsewhere in the west, the rising cost of welfare has reached the point that governments are looking for reform. Ian Duncan-Smith, for instance, the welfare secretary wants to take all those complex, creaking benefits and merge them into a single, simple system - a system which he plans to call a universal credit. It is a good idea but is not going to achieve anything worthwhile. The whole thing is being looked at the wrong way round. Everyone has been deceived by the "gross pay" illusion.

Britain needs a Right of Public Access to Land

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An ex-banker to the Queen has urged a public inquiry to allow him to close part of Chaucer's Pilgrims Way that runs over his estate by telling inspectors they should remember they are not in Zimbabwe or Cuba or Scotland. Timothy Steel who is the former vice chairman of the Queens investment bankers Cazenove has become embroiled in a battle with villagers over the ancient paths across the woodlands in Kent near Adisham.

Yesterday he handed a dossier of evidence to the inspectors - including a letter which he wrote and sent to Adisham parish council. In the letter he said villagers seemed to "view land ownership with a mixture of envy and contempt" and added that the attempts by locals to walk over private land "might have resonance in Zimbabwe, Cuba and possibly Scotland, but it is an anachronistic form of totalitarian thinking, which has been abandoned by most other former Communist regimes." He also accused locals of a vendetta against him and said he would "not be bullied into allowing the right to roam at all times" over either his land - or that of his brother-in-law Lord Hawarden.

The inquiry opened last month with evidence from villagers and restarted with testimony from another local walker - Sir Geoffrey Nice QC - who was the war crimes prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague. The inquiry is expected to close this week to decide the matter. Villagers from Adisham had protested to Kent County Council after three paths used by walkers and horse riders were closed off by Mr Steel, who put up padlocked metal gates and barbed wire and signs ordering them to keep out. Retired businessman and protest organiser David Leidig, 73, said: "I used to walk my dogs there almost every day, then suddenly there were gamekeepers driving around on quad bikes chasing people away."

The villagers appeal, which included more than 100 testimonies from people who had used the paths going back to 1927, was accepted by the council after an eight-year battle, and the council ordered the paths registered as public rights of way. But despite the decision, the gates have remained in place and following an appeal by Mr Steel, the public inquiry was ordered.

Henry Law comments
: it is Britain that is out of line here and this is a human rights issue. The country's land tenure system is worse than feudal. It needs a Right of Public Access.

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