Cunning stunt? Buy a calculator

A few days late on this one, but I have been meaning to follow up on this article about Grant Shapp’s cunning stunt over the Christmas holidays:

“Our plan would build more houses than the Government. But the way to do it is not to do it in a centrally planned way. That has always failed.

“The way to do it is to incentivise communities to want to build houses. It works by saying, ‘build these houses and you get a new town centre or other services like a hospital or school.’ The existing community gets the gain, not just those people who move there.

“If people knew that council tax receipts were kept for five or 10 years if they took houses and therefore council tax was lower, they would often be in favour. This way you are building up an array of benefits from being a Yimby, not a Nimby.”

No-one is disputing that if communities had incentives to develop, all things being equal they probably would. But perhaps Mr Shapps ought to buy himself a calculator if he intends to make this incentive reliant on council tax receipts. Because while only a fraction (a quarter to be precise) of local authority revenue is raised from council tax, new developments will continue to have net costs associated with them, not net benefits.

If the Tory policy is for council tax to shoulder a bigger burden of local tax revenue, it’s news to me, and I’m sure it will be news to the millions of people who are unlikely to welcome a massive tax hike to the tune of thousands of pounds. And it must be news to Caroline Spelman and Eric Pickles who have spent the past two-plus years denouncing any attempt of government to even contemplate revaluation by coming up with scare stories about taxing “nice views“.

If Shapps truly wants his dream of creating incentives for new build to become a reality, he’s going to have to be a bit more radical than that. It won’t happen without a significant tax shift onto land values. That isn’t something that David Cameron, Gideon Osborne and the other members of the Tufty Club behind the New Model Tories are likely to contemplate, no matter how many times Grant sleeps in a cardboard box.

Shapps of course must know this; he’s seen how Osborne has been inflated to the point of being hailed the new messiah by the Right for suggesting (modest) cuts in wealth taxes after all, which makes his stunt seem all the more hollow. Almost as hollow, in fact, as this claim:

Mr Shapps points out that the real losers were the Lib Dems whose second place was a foretaste of the disarray that eventually claimed their leader.

W-O-W – this is amazing stuff coming from the man who claimed he had proof that the Lib Dems were running a “poster lottery” (which has subsequently earned Iain Dale the immortal nickname Pravdale) and whose hands appeared to be caught stuck in the YouTube cookie jar. Cunning stunts indeed. Without wanting to revisit old battles, let’s just make one thing clear: just as the Lib Dem’s victory in Dunfermline and West Fife in 2006 had nothing to do with our lack of a leader at the time, winning Ealing Southall would have done nothing to save Menzies Campbell’s job. He would still have quit this autumn. For Shapps to claim that one of the greatest Tory fuckups of 2007 was in fact a bold act of regicide on his part is immodest even by his standards.

It’s nice to see him begin his political rehabilitation however. It is clear he has learned nothing, which suggests that we will have a second chance to have some more fun at the expense of this legend in his own lunchtime before too long.

3 thoughts on “Cunning stunt? Buy a calculator

  1. I must say I thought he might actually be promoting Tim Leunig’s idea on Community Land Auctions when he was talking about holding down Council Tax – it’s one of the things he suggests – that capturing the land value increase would enable councils who chose to to do that. Even to cut CT to zero for a few years as an incentive.

  2. On closer inspection, I’m completely baffled what he’s talking about. Who is he suggesting should keep the council tax receipts for instance? Am I missing something? I’ve just watched his content-free speech at Tory conference and am none the wiser.

    What’s missing is any detail about how he proposes to ensure that communities get the gain. If he’s a supporter of CLAs, could you point me to where he has argued for them?

    On the face of it he doesn’t appear to be calling for anything very different from existing Section 106 agreements.

  3. I have no evidence at all! It was just all I could think of and the way he’s put two things together – new homes and keeping taxes down or getting big bits of desirable infrastructure down. He can’t surely be saying that you get more money just because you have more CT payers and so can keep the tax down because if you have more residents you have higher costs too so the CT would be the same-ish.

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