Local taxes, Local power

June 10, 2011 13 Comments
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Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell are today’s most prominent torchbearers for Localism. It was Simon Jenkins’ 2004 paper for Policy Exchange that launched a coherent case for Localism, and this was followed by the founding of Direct Democracy in 2005 and a series of recommendations from Helena Kennedy’s Power Inquiry from 2006, but it was in 2008, with Hannan and Carswell’s  ’The Plan’ that the first serious attempt came to place Localism at the heart of a Party manifesto. Cameron’s response to the pair was dismissive, and he adopted in place of the caucus of recommendations a sort of Cameroonian Localism Lite- tastes like Localism but with none of the calories.

So whilst an opinion piece in the Telegraph from Hannan and Carswell criticising Cameron’s Localism may be hardly surprising, it carries some weight. They find two major obstructions to meaningful reform, which I have also highlighted consistently on my own blog. First is the entrenched opposition of the senior civil service – the Mandarins – to any loss of central power. Everything they’ve done has been with the aim of placing all the policy levers of State at the heart of Whitehall like some monstrous signal-box, as though the country was running a war economy, and they won’t loosen their grip a nanometer. Second is Cameron and Osborne’s own refusal to devolve tax powers.

I know many of you will equate the notion of tax with that of bondage, but our liberty requires not no taxes but low taxes; the army must be paid, the courts must be maintained, diplomats must be kept in foreign capitals and the nation’s air traffic controllers must seek to prevent aircraft from falling out of the sky all over the country. Some things can’t be local, and must be managed and revenue collected at a national level. Most everything else can be local.

The Treasury relies on the findings of the Lyons Enquiry to oppose the case for local taxation; Lyons said taxes could never be economically collected on other than a national scale. It’s a nonsense. A lie. Utterly mistaken. You’ve only to look to Switzerland or the US where a variety of taxes and duties are levied and collected locally far more efficiently than the Leviathan and incompetent HMRC can do. Then there’s the bogeyman argument; giving tax powers to a local area ruled by a corrupt ethnic group  will lead to fraud and peculation akin to that in Dhaka or Karachi, and only the central State can be trusted to be honest. Ha! Yes, of course a corrupt council can steal the tax money and fail to provide services, but this will be self-regulating. Residents and businesses will move out, people won’t pay their taxes, the criminals will be caught and prosecuted.

The fact is, until we have local control of taxes we don’t have either freedom or liberty. The shorter the route from my wallet to the local beat bobby’s pay packet the more responsive the man will be. Welfare payments determined and paid at a neighbourhood level from taxes raised locally will create new and positive incentives to throw off the shackles of Welfare slavery. The roads, the streetlights, the park, the primary school, the beat police and the licencing of nuisances are all things that should be determined locally, not in Whitehall.

13 Responses to Local taxes, Local power

  1. June 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Yup, and to avoid distortions between areas; to minimise administration costs; to make it clear to people how much they are actually paying; and to encourage councils to spend money on things that make an area more desirable, the ideal local tax is of course a tax on land values.

    • June 10, 2011 at 9:01 pm

      “tax on land values”, pah! I bet you know nothing about it at all Mark…

      (runs away)

      • June 11, 2011 at 7:44 am

        :lol:

  2. WitteringWitney
    June 10, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Local Government and Local Taxation are two matters on which I have long blogged and written about, being in favour of both.

    My only concern is: are Carswell and Hannan all that they present themselves as? Some of their blogging does raise doubts……

    For readers querying Land Value Tax – a post from Mark Wadsworth:
    link to markwadsworth.blogspot.com
    one that is well worth a read!

    Local government, local taxation and a dose of “Referism” would put this country back on the road to greatness!

    • June 10, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      WFW, ta for link.

    • June 11, 2011 at 7:45 am

      “My only concern is: are Carswell and Hannan all that they present themselves as?”

      I don’t think anyone ever is, especially politicians.

  3. luikkerland
    June 10, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Localism and local taxes are the back door for direct EU control over regions while maintaining the illusion of UK integrity, as Hannan and Carswell well know.

    • June 10, 2011 at 11:11 pm

      Nope. Did you not read the article?

      The US and Switzerland have very localised tax systems and neither of those is under EU control. In fact, as a matter of fact and observation, one of the things which the EU very much likes is ‘harmonising’ tax systems across all member states.

      • luikkerland
        June 10, 2011 at 11:16 pm

        You are correct. The US and Switzerland are not in the EU, therefore do not have regions under EU control. So what? (Actually, the US is probably not a good example at the moment of localism lessening Federal Government control). I’ll write about this soon, will try to remember to address the harmonisation point.

      • luikkerland
        June 11, 2011 at 12:22 am

        But don’t get me wrong either. In principle Cantonism (let’s call it) is worthy of investigation; as always it’s how bad people subvert something. I fear that localism in the UK is designed for the purposes of creating autonomy within the EU.

  4. nemesis
    June 10, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Perhaps one could start by re-instating business rates back to local control. It would certainly concentrate the minds of councillors into making their own area attractive and competitive for business and no doubt have beneficial effects on parking controls, planning, employment etc.

    • June 10, 2011 at 11:09 pm

      Yup, that’s one of the few good ideas which The Morbidly Obese One currently in charge of DCLG had, albeit he nicked it from a UKIP policy paper which I co-wrote.

    • June 11, 2011 at 7:46 am

      Agreed.

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