Polly Toynbee uncovers important failings in the tax system when she says that wealth taxes only deliver 6% of revenues, with most of the wealth tied up in housing (Comment, 12 March). Even worse, the system does not secure enough long-term investment in the energy, waste, water and transport systems. Instead it leads to inflated prices for existing assets such as housing, thus reinforcing inequalities, while local authorities are drained of resources. We need a more intelligent tax system, as in some of the European countries that have outpaced us. Taxes on fixed assets like land values should be used, as in Copenhagen, to fund new transport systems through urban development. Similarly taxes on employers’ payrolls in France help fund local transit systems. A review of our antiquated and unfair tax system needs to be linked with securing better returns from capital investments (as I argue in a pamphlet published by the Town and Country Planning Association).
Urbed (Urbanism Environment Design)
• Polly Toynbee is right to talk about the regressive nature of council tax. However, I’m proud that Camden’s Labour council has taken action on freebies for the wealthy. We’ve removed the discount for second-home owners and have borne down on empty homes, charging council tax at 150% for properties empty for two years or more. In total there are more than 7,000 empty and second homes in the borough. The revenue this raises will be ploughed back into services. But, courtesy of the coalition, council tax benefit changes mean that some of the poorest and most disadvantaged in our community will have to pay council tax for the first time.
Cllr Mike Katz
London borough of Camden
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