CEJ Annual Report (March 2010 to March 2011)
Following the 2008 economic crisis, the CEJ established itself to tackle the disfunctional economic situation facing the country and took positive steps to influence the politicians and policy formulators regarding land reform. Because this work had limitations we realised that this activity needed to be paralleled by work of engagement and collaboration with other organisations concerned to make changes to the monetary system as well as unfair taxation. In this way we hope to have a greater influence on the wider community.
Across this 12 months we have continued our attempts to influence the Treasury. We held a meeting with the Treasury civil servants in May 2010 at which we spelled out the case for an annual land value tax with equivalent reductions in other inappropriate taxes. In response the civil servants raised a number of concerns which we undertook to examine.
During the year, in consequence, we established a Treasury Sub-group to produce a series of papers as follows:
“Reform of National Non-Domestic Rates”;
“Valuation Principles for Land Value Taxation”;
“National versus Local Implementation of Land Value Taxation”;
“A Provisional Implementation Plan for Land Value Taxation”; and
“The Impact of LVT on Bank Lending”.
These documents are now available on the CEJ website at: http://www.c4ej.com/cej-publications.
We will be holding a further meeting with the Treasury civil servants in May 2011. By carrying out this exercise we have clarified for ourselves a much sounder insight into how our aim of achieving annual land value taxation can be realised. We will follow up on any actions needed after that meeting.
In December 2010 we found that the Treasury Committee were consulting on the fundamental principles of tax policy. As a result we submitted a response from the CEJ and asked our member organisations to make submissions if they wished. In the event the Treasury Committee received a total of nine submissions from CEJ organisations - a tremendous achievement in a short space of time - together with a few from organisations outside the CEJ who supported LVT to some degree. However, the Committee only held a single session to consider oral evidence and did not include any from the CEJ. We are pursuing the matter vigorously as we regard their actions as unsatisfactory, given that the subject of their inquiry is so relevant to the economic issues facing government.
In pursuit of our wish to collaborate with organisations seeking monetary reform we organised and held, with Peter Challen as our lead member, a conference on Land and Money Reform on 24th June 2010. The conference was attended by representatives of all CEJ’s member organisations and over twenty other organisations concerned with economic and social issues including the Bromsgrove Group, Positive Money, the Work Foundation and the Finance Innovation Lab.
The conference, chaired by John Lipetz, had Peter Challen introducing the context of a steady state economy. Josh Ryan-Collins of the New Economic Foundation described the eco-systemic changes in ‘The Great Transition’ and Bill Kerry of the Equality Trust provided the convincing case set out in ‘The Spirit Level’ that huge inequalities in developed countries undermined the well-being of all their citizens. David Triggs of the Henry George Foundation presented with great clarity the subject of economic rent of land as a community asset, making the case for capturing land value for the benefit of all. Professor Richard Werner, Director of the Centre for Banking Finance and Sustainable Development at Southampton University, gave an authoritative presentation on the current financial system and offered a number of routes to reform, the main one being that banks ‘created money out of nothing’ which meant that the provision of credit needed to be changed by effective regulation.
The conference then debated how networks could be strengthened and campaigns developed through collaboration. The issue of whether to join into a single coalition was thoroughly discussed. The broad agreement was that what was needed was continuing engagement between the parties with each group concentrating on the area of reform they understood best. The CEJ will continue this approach.
As indicated in our previous report (on the CEJ’s first 15 months), we have maintained contact with organisations who are supportive of our aims. These include the Equality Trust, the New Economic Foundation, the Green party, the Cooperative party, Positive Money, the Finance Lab and the Tax Justice Network. The results of this have been variable given that they are each concentrating on their own areas of interest. Nevertheless, we will pursue common ends where we can, press the case for Land Reform and also pursue our attempts to influence parliamentarians.
In early 2010 we put forward an e-petition in favour of achieving Land Value Taxation. This was unsuccessful because, firstly, the petition referred to replacing other taxes rather than reducing them and, secondly and conclusively, because the new government withdrew this facility.
During the year we have held three general meetings. The first was on Citizens Income with David Triggs, Tommas Graves and Carol Wilcox each making short presentations followed by discussion. The second dealt with Taxes and Unemployment with talks given by David Triggs and Jonathon Nichols. The third provided a particularly useful debate on Monetary Reform with the main talk in favour provided by Ben Dyson from Positive Money and a note of caution presented by Tommas Graves. This was followed by a lively debate.
The CEJ has decided that there will in future be one general meeting in each term. While there has been, on each occasion, some useful discussion we have not necessarily pursued these to establishing agreed conclusions. The meetings have always had a good attendance from the School of Economic Science (SES) and the Henry George Foundation (HGF) but much less so from the other organisations in the coalition.
During the year we agreed a mission statement for the coalition which reads:
“To campaign for the sharing of the rental value of natural resources, including land, as the most effective way of removing the injustice caused by the private appropriation of community-created wealth.”
We also agreed the following strategic aims:
By means of moral and pragmatic reasoning based on sound principle the CEJ will work to develop an understanding of annual land value taxation thereby obtaining recognition that the collection of the economic rent of land and natural resources is a key measure needed to tackle the current dysfunctional economic system.
To this end the CEJ will:
1. Seek to influence politicians and policy makers by establishing contacts, meeting with parliamentarians, political parties and government officials, lobbying and holding events;
2. Influence the wider public through work with opinion formers and the media and by appealing to peoples’ innate sense of justice;
3. Engage and collaborate with a wide range of organisations with similar or compatible aims, particularly (but not exclusively) with those seeking money reform, linking the public collection of the community-created value of economic rent with the need for a just and sustainable economy; and
4. Work with academics, think-tanks and the range of educational institutions to influence both the understanding of economic rent and the development of academic courses and to encourage the involvement of students.”
The next stage of our work will be to develop action programmes in each of the four areas listed above.
We also finalised a Land Charter, which has been put on the website and is available here:-
The CEJ steering group continues to meet monthly. I still remain impressed by the knowledge and expertise each member provides as well as their commitment to contributing time and effort to our work. There are always areas of action on which we can improve our work methods and we will take steps to develop these.
Chair, Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ)