Tag: economics

Can a local community pay for its own regeneration instead of relying on developers with tall blocks of flats and massive government grants? I got thinking about this again after reading a jargon-fuelled paper on urban rights and renewal sent my way by local hero Eileen Conn. The author writes about communities owning, or controlling, their urban environment, and being able to determine how to spend “surplus value” (Marxist terminology for capital that rich people and governments accumulate off our backs). How could local people in Peckham, for example, decide how money is spent in the area? Here are two quick steps that are decidely practical compared to the ivory tower academic paper. First, give people more control over the property and land in Peckham. At the moment you either buy a home and the land it sits on, or you rent from a landlord, or you rent from the…

Read More Can the community regenerate Peckham?

If you read beyond the squeals of indignation from the latest TaxPayers Alliance “research” you find an interesting conclusion. The taxes we pay on measures aimed principally at reducing carbon dioxide emissions are much lower than the cost of those emissions to the economy. So we should be putting more tax on carbon dioxide, and perhaps less on good stuff like work! The TPA, better known for their corporate tax avoidance and personal tax evasion than robust research, have really gone to town on environmental taxation. So here are two fatal flaws and an interesting conclusion for those worried by the headlines. First, they pit these taxes against the cost of carbon dioxide emissions. But by their own, buried and obfuscated admission, these taxes do a lot more than just reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel and vehicle excise duty, which make up the bulk of the taxes, also address congestion,…

Read More TaxPayers Alliance accidentally show we need more eco-taxes

My paper about BedZED in was published in the Environment and Urbanization journal last month, there’s a free PDF for download. Aside from the many nitty gritty technical lessons learned from the UK’s first and still-largest Zero Carbon development, I took away two basic lessons for green policy. The first is that good urban design really can influence behaviour, making for a better sense of community and more environmentally friendly lifestyles. The old rule of thumb – make good choices the default and easy, bad choices more effort – bore fruit. The second is that the prevalent “save you money” view of selling sustainability needs a good kick in the teeth. Of course bill savings can be a good motivation for some people, but where did BedZED residents spend their savings? Flights; the now well-documented rebound effect at work. If you save money somewhere, do you automatically think “Great, I’ll…

Read More How close are we to zero carbon communities?

A discussion with two friends on the back of my post about the cuts agenda brought up some interesting figures about benefit and tax fraud. There’s nothing the Tories and right-wing media pundits like more than a good old attack on benefit fraud. Lazy good-for-nothings scamming our taxes! Get ’em! But how big a problem is benefit fraud, and how does it compare to the rich ripping us off with offshore tax havens and the like? Benefit fraud in 07-08 cost us around £800m out of a budget totalling £125bn. Tax evasio by the rich cost us around £18.5bn and a tax avoidance is estimated at around £100bn compared to a government budget totalling £589bn. Tax evasion  is harder to tackle, involving international negotiations, but it says a lot about your priorities. Tory plans to bail out a few thousand rich families through inheritance tax changes would cost considerably more…

Read More Who is really ripping us off?