Monday, August 08, 2011

Who owns Britain's green and pleasant land?

An excellent long Observer article yesterday, which has at the beginning:
"Britain's biggest estates are falling into the hands of Russian oligarchs hankering after their own slice of Brideshead Revisited. As another £100m home is put on the market, Tim Adams wonders if the rest of us will ever see over the castle walls."
and plenty of detail, such as:
On the ground it is hard to get a measure of the Crichel Estate in Dorset. It takes in almost 10,000 acres, in the glorious countryside to the north of Poole harbour, near Wimborne Minster.
. . .
I try walking its perimeter, but I don't get far. In the end I find I can get a better indication of Crichel's extent from an aerial view on YouTube: in a short film advertising the hunting possibilities of its thousands of acres, a helicopter- mounted camera swoops for several minutes around the gentle hills and valleys of the property, before dwelling on the main house itself. Crichel is a great Palladian pile that provided the backdrop for the 1996 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. It was mostly built by John the Bastard, one of the noted Bastard brothers of Blandford Forum, in 1742. Its land includes three villages, a cricket club, a church and a school. All of this could, apparently, now be yours for around £100 million, making it the most expensive British property outside London ever sold."
And there's an astonishing statistic describing how globalisation has changed Britain:
In 1980 there was a 70% likelihood that the buyer of a property such as Crichel House – or Cliveden, former seat of the Astors in Buckinghamshire and now on the market for a cool £35 million – would owe their fortune to inheritance. By 2007 that likelihood had dropped to about 11%.
Wow. There's some fascinating older history too. There are lots of things discussed in here but we are delighted to see, in terms of policy solutions, that they quote Carol Wilcox of the Labour Land Campaign.
Rather than taxing income so heavily, or seeing aspiration to ownership taxed in the form of stamp duty, why not impose an annual tax on the productive value of land per acre (excluding occupied homes in the lower council tax bands), and thereby address the most glaring inequity in the country? This might allow tenants of all kinds to finally own a little patch, leading to the eventual disbursement, at fair price, of some of the millions of acres currently held in a few thousand hands. And it would mean the 40% of prime property currently being sold to often absent foreign investors would not look quite so attractive.

"I like to think about the effects of not taxing land," says Wilcox. "House prices remain unaffordable; there is a vast amount of wasted land, derelict sites and empty property in the hands of an elite few; and nearly all private income that could be used for investment goes on servicing property debt, allowing the banks to make their massive gains. The only reason anyone should own land is to use it…"
Read more on this essential, revolutionary tax here.


Blogger Physiocrat said...

Good to see you speaking up for this.

12:32 pm  

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