It's not just Labour that's getting behind a land value tax

Julia Park

It’s been talked about for over a century but all attempts to introduce it have been short-lived. That could be about to change, says Julia Park

Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains – and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist… …contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.”

That was Winston Churchill in 1909. And he wasn’t the first to highlight the profit that accrues to landowners when their land is earmarked for development. In the middle of the 19th century, John Stuart Mill said much the same:

“Landlords grow rich in their sleep without working, risking or economising. The increase in the value of the land, arising as it does from the efforts of the entire community, should belong to the community and not to the individual who might hold the title.”

Since then, hundreds of experts – Kate Barker, Richard Blythe (RTPI), Joshua Vincent Duncan Bowie, Shelter, TCPA (the list goes on and on) have all had their say. In 2015, Tom Copley, an energetic Labour Member of the London Assembly and author of Right to Buy: Wrong for London, was commissioned to write a report for the GLA. He noted that land values in the UK have risen by a staggering 544% since 1995 and that Crossrail had already led to an 82% uplift in land values near to the planned stations. Imagine what that figure will be when it’s finally finished.

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