Lewisham Greens propose "Green New Deal" for the Borough [Updated]

Lewisham's Green Party Councillors are currently promoting their ideas for the upcoming budget. They write:

"On 2nd March, Lewisham Council meets to consider its budget for the next municipal year. Labour is proposing a business mostly as usual budget, with a number of cuts to services, and a 2.5% council tax increase... Greens have proposed a detailed amendment to the budget, reversing a swathe of the most damaging cuts to services, while proposing a package of investment to to fight recession and climate change together, while creating skilled local jobs. For further details, see here."

The big idea is helping thousands of people across the borough insulate their homes and finding an energy company partner prepared to provide match-funding as part of the work they are required to do under the government's Carbon Emissions Reduction Target rules.

They add:

"The plan would pay for free loft, cavity wall or boiler insulation in 25,700 private homes across Lewisham. That means all private homes in Lewisham which need insulation - but which do not qualify for free help under schemes for the elderly and those on benefits - would get it free of charge."

As a flagship policy, it seems pretty smart. There's a whole host of other ideas here, most of which involve preventing or reversing cuts - we hope one of our regular Green contributors will explain what will have to be sacrificed in order to do all this and balance the budget.

The term new deal suggests this budget would provide some kind of localised economic stimulus to "fight recession", which is a bit of a grandiose statement for a balanced budget from a local Council. The Greens also claim that Council Tax is regressive, which it isn't. It's a progressive tax on wealth, rather than income. Both wealth and income contribute to a person's standard of living and income is already taxed. Someone living alone in a massive house is also likely to generate a much larger CO2 per capita footprint than a family of four living in a small house, so you'd think Greens would be happy for some of the burden to fall on wealth, rather than people's salaries.

Still, these quibbles aside, it's interesting to read some specific proposals and the Greens go to far greater lengths than any other party in Lewisham to communicate their ideas. Even if you don't agree with them, they deserve credit for taking local politics so seriously.

[Updated] The Lib Dems alternative is to freeze Council Tax at current levels. Their rather brief rationale is:

"Times are tough for people in Lewisham at the moment, and the Council needs to play its part in making life easier for residents in the Borough. The Lib Dems are proposing a 0% council tax freeze in Lewisham this year, as opposed to Labour's 2.5% hike."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Times are tough for people in Lewisham at the moment, and the Council needs to play its part in making life easier for residents in the Borough.
I back the Lib Dem proposal of council tax freeze in Lewisham this year, rather than Labour's 2.5% hike.

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853blog said...

Anonymous, eh? Good to see the Lib Dems stand out from the crowd :-)

fred vest said...

i'd tend to agree with the green's view of council tax as a regressive tax (on wealth) and not a progressive one

a truly progressive tax is one which both the amount AND the rate rises in line with the ability to pay/wealth - while the amount of council tax rises with the value of the house, the amount of that tax expressed as a percentage of the house value falls, giving the situation where your effective rate of council tax gets lower the higher value house you have - this is the exact opposite to (progressive) income tax

likewise given the generally positive correlation between house value and income of owner (although i accept there are exceptions to this assertion), the council tax amount paid will be a higher proportion of lower paid's income than higher paid's income, again showing it's regressive nature (this is similar to what we see with VAT)

the regressive nature of our council tax isn't something that is inherent within property taxes in general though, just our particular implementation of it - also because the valuation bandings are set nationally and based on valuations nearly 20 years ago you get a situation like in the north east of england where 80% of all properties fall into the first two bands making it closer to a flat tax in that area and certainly nothing progressive about it - on the flip side in london and the south east you have a large amount of properties with massive disparities in value falling into the highest valuation band so again similar to a flat tax for those categories and certainly not increasing (either in amount or rate) with the value of the house or the ability of the owners to pay

adam smith - a fan of progressive taxation would not find much to like about our council tax i'd wager

Comment said...

I think the system with all it's niggles works well.
A local income tax arbitrarily applied will lead to 'sink' boroughs and the ghettoisastion of London. Boroughs where a lot of high earners live will have great services, and ones that don't won't.

welcome to 2009 said...

Let's be honest fred the greens don't like property tax because hippies don't usually earn much but have inherited nice big houses.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. Same reason they stress the purchase of ethical foods that no one else can afford.

welcome to 2009 said...

Anon, that doesn't actually make sense. If they're not earning much then they can't afford expensive food?

Brockley Nick said...

Fred said:

"a truly progressive tax is one which both the amount AND the rate rises in line with the ability to pay/wealth - while the amount of council tax rises with the value of the house, the amount of that tax expressed as a percentage of the house value falls, giving the situation where your effective rate of council tax gets lower the higher value house you have - this is the exact opposite to (progressive) income tax"

point taken, but there's no reason why property tax can't be progressive on wealth, depends on rates set. Like you say. Point I was trying to make is that it's perfectly legitimate to tax property wealth. Exclusively levying tax on someone's labour doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

They can afford tosser-ish food because they don't spend a sizeable part of their income on housing, sorry.

Nice Food said...

Oven chip on your shoulder Anon? Mmmmmmm..... junk food.....

fred vest said...

"point taken, but there's no reason why property tax can't be progressive on wealth, depends on rates set. Like you say. Point I was trying to make is that it's perfectly legitimate to tax property wealth. "

i agree with that, but the point that the greens are making in their statement is

'Council tax is already an unfair, regressive form of taxation, that hits those on low incomes hardest'

i.e. they are looking at it's impact in the here and now and it's effect in reality, not what it could be as some ideal implementation of it, so in that sense they are perfectly correct to identify it as a regressive tax

A said...

It's not clear how the Lib Dems' tax freeze would help those hurt most by the recession, ie those out of work or already at the bottom. Those on low or no income will not benefit because they already get 100% council tax benefit. So instead of being smart and targeting resources carefully, they are using this crude headline-grabber that won't actually do much good.

Sue said...

@Welcome to 2009: one of us has been sadly misinformed! If it's me, then there must be an ancestral home waiting for me somewhere, in which case, yippee, I can give up on the whole being a mortgage slave and working for a living thing :).

Anon @ 20:41: we all make choices based on our priorities. Yes, I tend to practise what I preach and shop locally and, where possibly, buy organic and fairtrade. I don't have a big income (considerably less than the London average), I just choose not to buy tat. I'd rather go and have a gossip with Nicola in Shop on the Hill when I do my shop, than endure the hell that is a trip to most supermarkets.

Council tax: don't want to get side-tracked into a massive debate on the merits or otherwise of this, as the actual budget proposals are what is more pertinent here, but there are real issues if for example you live on a state pension in a large house, or are on a low income and live in social housing in a property with a high council tax banding etc.

Do our proposals balance? Yes, they do. You can see the proposals in full on the Council website, or a summary on my blog.I would argue that while the other parties talk green, they are still failing to put in place the measures we need to tackle climate change and strengthen our local economy. They either don't grasp the urgency and scale of the challenge, or they are just burying their heads in the sand and hoping it all just goes away.

Ute Michel said...

I have just posted a detailed analysis of the budget and the amendments over on the Green Ladywell blog - can I just ask that you increase our readership rather than having to summarise here?

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