The agenda for the Lib Dem Conference 16-20 September in Brighton has just been published and ALTER members may be interested in when the debates relevant to us are to occur.
Sunday afternoon sees the opening of Conference and a debate on Governance: The Power to be Different is the title of the policy paper being debated. Here we can support the aim of allowing every tier of Government the ability to raise and spend money in accordance with the wishes of the local electorate. However there is no mention of allowing devolved tiers to choose how to raise money. Perhaps we should remind Conference of its overwhelming support for our short simple motion on Choice for Revenue Raising in 1999. We could also point out that local equates to land - that whatever government finances an investment in land it is local values that are affected, which is why LVT is such a neat method of raising revenue - recycling wealth - at every level.
Monday morning is the big debate on Climate Change. Our President Chris Huhne MP will undoubtedly speak in it. We hope he points out that taxing the earnings and profits of those who are striving to meet the challenge of climate change is crazy: tax resource usage above all, for revenue raising; tax pollution, to change behaviour mainly and not to raise revenue.
Tuesday morning sees two debates of interest to us. A debate on Community Planning Auctions precedes the debate which mops up some of the issues that the Tax Commission left unresolved last year. The first of these debates proposes reform of the system of planning applications, so that Planning Authorities would collect most of the uplift in land values arising from planning permission. It would do this by means of a two-stage auction process. The details are set out in a paper by Dr Tim Leunig for CentreForum, which can be read here. ALTER Vice President Ed Davey MP is proposing the motion. We intend to make clear that we think this is no substitute for having LVT on owner-occupied homes, although it is supported by ALTER as a transitional measure, because it captures land value that would not be fully captured by LVT for many years after its introduction. The problem is that the Leunig idea fails completely to capture the spillover land value uplift that existing home-owners pocket.
The Tax Motion and policy paper, called Reducing the Burden, develops existing policy on Site Value Rating as replacement to Business Rates but makes no mention of any tax on domestic land or property. It reiterates our policy of replacing Council Tax with Local Income Tax and claims the Lyons Inquiry supports that. ALTER will ask for this part of the motion to be left out, without explicitly challenging LIT.
On Tuesday afternoon Conference will debate a motion on Poverty and Inequality, which makes reference to the Community Land Auctions idea because it helps control house prices. There is again plenty of scope for intervention in the debate to mention how LVT tackles the causes of poverty in a way no other policy can.
It is possible to attend Conference and to speak in debates without being a voting representative, although one needs to register for the whole Conference, not just for the day.
ALTER has a Fringe meeting on Monday evening at 8pm: a debate on the relative merits of Community Planning Auctions and domestic LVT, chaired by Ed Davey. You do not need to be a conference rep to attend this. It is at the Thistle Hotel.