Jonathan Fryer

Gareth Epps on Fairer Tax

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 22nd October, 2012

The Liberal Democrats are currently carrying out a consultation on tax and admirably it really is a consultation, in that views are being sought not only at the national level (for example at last month’s Federal Conference in Brighton) but also at the grassroots. This evening, Gareth Epps — a former leader of the LibDems on Reading Council and parliamentary candidate in Reading East at the last general election, as well as a leading light in the Social Liberal Forum — came to sound out opinion among Hammersmith and Fulham LibDems in London, though the subject drew in attendees from other boroughs. The key principle at the heart of the Party’s review is fairness, but as the discussion tonight made abundantly clear, fairness is a subjective rather than an objective factor when it comes to tax. Not surprisingly, given the preponderance of members from West-Central London, Vince Cable’s proposed ‘mansion tax’, which would see people who inhabit houses worth over £2 million paying an annual tax on the figure over that amount — was unpopular. The concept of land tax won more favour, with others preferring a rebanding exercise of council tax which would take into account the fact that an absurdly high percentage of London homes all figure in the current top band; higher bands are obviously needed if we keep that system. I pointed out that London really does need special measures when it comes to tax-raising, not just because of the relatively high value of property but also because of the disturbingly high and accelerating cost of renting in the capital, which puts the Government’s cap on housing benefit into perspective; poorer families are already being chased out. There was also quite a lot of discussion this evening about the wisdom of continuing with national insurance as a separate item from tax — far too complex to go into here. But the Fairer Tax working group of the LibDems is still collecting evidence!

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