Saturday, 22 July 2017

"Michael Gove: newly green or still mean?"

Labour Land Campaign press release:

The Labour Land Campaign (LLC) has long called for a fundamental shift in what is taxed by replacing taxes on wages and productivity that depress the economy with an economically neutral Land Value Tax (LVT) on the unearned income that big landowners collect. Chair of LLC, Anthony Molloy is sceptical that when Michael Gove [1] calls for “a Green Brexit”, saying that “farmers must prove they deserve future subsidies after the UK leaves the European Union”, it means he understands how the £3 billion handed out every year in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies benefits rich landowners to the detriment of small farmers, especially those on rented land. More likely, this is merely greenwash to disguise the fact that these much-resented, highly counter-productive hand-outs to the very wealthy are to be maintained in a post-CAP Britain.

The top 100 recipients of Single Payments [2] (the subsidy you get for simply owning the land which accounts for nearly three quarters of all CAP payments) receive more than the bottom 55,000 put together and include four offshore companies, 16 individuals on the Sunday Times Rich List, at least 20 aristocratic estates, Conservative MP Richard Drax [3], numerous donors to the Conservative Party and a Saudi prince.

LLC research has shown how such subsidies actually increase the value and therefore the price of land. Even the EU has long recognised that CAP subsidies soon capitalise into land value, raising rents for tenant farmers and making farmland more expensive to buy for young would-be farmers. Thus, some of the richest people in the country get the triple benefit of a hand-out on top of increased rents and rising asset value at the expense, not only of the taxpayer but also of those trying to make a living from farming.

Anthony Molloy went on to say “I hope the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has realised that not only should farming subsidies be earned but also that they should be designed to benefit farming and not be a hand-out to the wealthiest owners of farm land. LVT is a tool for ensuring all land is used efficiently and sparingly and if Michael Gove is serious about protecting the environment and enhancing rural life, then LVT will do just that. With LVT, farmers will only farm the land they need and will release the rest for new entrant farmers; and if land is unproductive, then it can be recovered for wildlife.”

Both rural and urban land should be used for homes, businesses, food production and recreation rather than as an investment by individuals and corporations. Real investment in public services and productive businesses—paid for by all of us as taxpayers, consumers and entrepreneurs—is what should generate land value. Not hand-outs.

[1] Is this Michael Gove the same one who, talking about greenfield sites in 2013, was “delighted by the release of more land for housing”. And is this Michael Gove promising to maintain welfare payments for the very rich the same one who, in the same speech, welcomed his government’s slashing of welfare payments for the poor: “Instead of incentives for idleness and a culture of dependency, there are powerful incentives to work.”

[2] Greenpeace Energydesk

[3] Another harsh critic of some types of welfare hand-out (talking about capping overall payments): “Many argue that the cap is far too high and, judging from the above figures, they have a good point”.


Bayard said...

"Even the EU has long recognised that CAP subsidies soon capitalise into land value, raising rents for tenant farmers"

Well down here, the rentable value of farmland is less than the subsidy, which I find somewhat bizarre. Perhaps rents vary by location and quality of land whereas the subsidy is fixed, dunno. Still, whatever, you would have thought that the farmer would not be making a profit without even using the rented land.

Two things that I find entirely unsurprising about this article are firstly, that the LLC is silent on who are the real beneficiaries of the subsidies, i.e. the supermarkets and secondly is the promotion, albeit by implication this time, of the Left's beloved means-testing: so fair and so good for the bureaucracy - what's not to like?