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Not the Property Ladder again

Oh no! Not the Property Ladder again!

You would have thought that the property ladder was the last thing George Osborne would mention in his budget speech on Wednesday.

But no – despite the untold damage and misery the property boom has caused throughout the world, the property ladder is to be dusted down and given a lick of paint to encourage ‘first time buyers’ to climb onto the bottom rung.

Of course, whatever is done to “help” people on to this ladder, for many – an increasing number – the bottom rung will always remain tantalisingly out of reach. That is the nature of this ladder.

Whereas it is highly desirable that first time buyers should be able to establish a home, there is a lack of understanding as to the best way of achieving this. Why should the taxpayers be obliged to subsidise the land price and house building cost? At best a few families will get a roof over their head. At worst the subsidy will jack up the price of land and make it more difficult for everyone else to buy a house.

Of course we need houses, but estimates suggest that around 700,000 are vacant. The chronic lack of decent living quarters is a disgrace, creating social problems and spreading poverty.

So what is the solution?

See for yourself. Look carefully out of the train window or round your local town centre. It will not be long before you spot a vacant site. You will be amazed at the number of poorly used and under-developed sites, with neglected buildings on prime sites. There is plenty of land available, so why is there a shortage of housing?

We need a policy to bring land into use to its full planning potential.

There is only one way to ensure that more houses are built at market prices and that is levy a tax on the annual rental value of land, as the Campaign has always advocated.

What if, instead of holding out the false attractions of the property ladder, Mr Osborne had announced that from midnight on Wednesday a raft of taxes such as Income Tax, Council Tax, VAT and Corporation Tax would be abolished and that these burdens and impediments to production would be replaced by a levy on the annual rental value of all land?

Vacant and underused land would become immediately available for development, the building trade would have full order books, architects would sharpen their pencils and the retail business would gear up for business.

That, Mr Osborne, is the way to put fuel into the tank of Start-Up Britain. That is the way to announce that Britain is open for business where the rewards of initiative, investment, enterprise and hard work are fully rewarded and the value in land created by the community is used to improve infrastructure and state services without dipping into the pockets of those who work.

Forget the ladder. We say – yet again – let’s look at the land under our feet to provide the revenue we need to put the Great back into Britain.

Michael Hawes