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Mr Lloyd George M.P., on Local…


Mr Lloyd George M.P., on Local Taxation. In the House of Commons, on Tuesday, Mr N directed attention to the ques- tion of local taxation, and moved—"That, having regard to the heavy and increasing burden of local taxation in urban and cer- tain other districts, the House urges upon th^ 'Overnmeiit the necessity of forthwith redressing the undoubted grievances from which many ratepayers sutfer." It was j difficult for hon. members to realise the rapid growth of local taxation, and local rates, great and heavy as they were now, were not likely to geit lighter in the future, but far more likely to increase (hear, hear). While we had been increasing our National Dtebt, we had been increasing our local debts, and the constant drifting of the population from the rural districts into the large towns creatoo new wants which had to be provided for. The urban ratepayers of this country wefe constantly asking for some relief and some readjustment of their burdens. The Government had made distinctions, and givei- special attention to the claims of u, j certs,! m class of ratepayers in agricultural districts, but at ,the very time when Parlia- jneoc was relieving ratepayers in the rural distr icts ho maintained that the rates ;n the towns were far higher than they were in the country (hear, hear). Taking similar here- ditaments in town and country, it would be fouad that the: town rates were much higher. Thf q the so-called relief given by the Im- perial doles was to a large extern- a fallacious relief (Opposition cheers). The taxes which had boon taken off with one hand had been pu~ on with the other. Such relief was not only fallacious-—it was mischievous (hear, hear). It tended very largely to extra- vagance. He ventured to hope that neither thi i nor any Government would foster the vicious system of Imperial grants for local adraiiii-stration. What was wanted, for one thing, was some uniform basis of valua- tion m this country, and the landlord as well as the occupier ought to be made to pay his fair share of local taxation (Opposi- tion cheers). Mr Lloyd George seconded the motion. He said the Government in dealing with this j question had taken the lighter burden first, and i i relieving it had inoreased the heavier burd >n. In towns the average rates were 6s 6i in the pound, and in thie country 2s 3d. But the Government, fivé years ago, paid half die rates of the 2s 3d ratepayer, and saic to the 6s 6d ratepayers, "although you are paying three! times as much, not only will we give you no relief, but we call on you to contribute towards hlalf the rate of tha 28 3d ratepayer" (loud cheers). He thought it was time the Government dealt with the grievance of the urban ratepayer. The burden was heavy, and it was growing, because of the new powers conferred on local authorities, and of the greater stringency in local inistration. In the urban districts, in the year 1- < -8, the total rates outside the poor rate amounted to E31,500,000, while in the rural districts they only came to £ 822,000. The total indebtedness of the urban districts in tht ydar amounted to 2143,000,000, and in the rural districts to 0U0. In the course of four years the I urban rates had increased by £ 4,600,000, and the outstanding loans by £ 22,000,000. The total assessable value of thd boroughs was k48,000,000, and of thie rural districts £ 51,000,000. Thus, while in the urban dis- trict c; the indebtedness was three time's as I great as the rateable value in the rural dis- I tricts, it was only one-twcijiticth of the rate- I able value. All they asked was that the Government should give the same fair treat- i ment to every class of the community. Two classes had at preseiyfc received relief at the hands of the Governmentr-thø landlords and the clergy. He agreed that this was not a oase for further grants-in-aid. That was a perfectly vicious form of almsgiving. It was neithelr dignified nor was it con- sistent with sound finance. But there was a method of lightening the burden, and that was by making all those* who benefited by the expenditure on municipal undertakings bear their fair share of the burden (cheers). Take thd case of Bootle, which was a town that had grown up within the last genera- tion. About a generation ago it was a perfect wilderness, but during the last thirty of forty years ther had been an enormous expenditure of money upon docks and quays and the development of such property. 'All the expenditure had been on the part of the municipal authorities there. What was the result? The property there had increased efaormously in valuo, and the whole of it belonged to one land- owner. What did he receive by way of ground rent on that property? He re- ceived £ 150,000 a year out of onet, munici- pality He had scleral vacant spaces eN which had grown in value from P,5 an acre to P-5000 an acre. Every inch of ground there had got its value, and a considerable value. What did the landowner, who was mak ng R150,000 a year out of that one town contribute towards the rates ? Not a penny, and yet those rates had been ex- pended in developing his property and in- creasing its value, and if it had not been for the expenditure his property would not have been worth anything except as agri- cultural land. That was not all. That landowner had got agricultural property outside in Lancashire and Cheshire, and in respect of that agricultural property he was receiving under the Agricultural Rating Act a large grant, annually because of ag- ricultural depression. He was one of those who suffered, and he was receiving that large grant of money in respect of his agricalt-urat land, paid largely by the very men who were paying hlim L150,000 in re- ( spect of his town property, which they had developed in their own skill and industry and the investment of their own capital. He said that was a monstrous injustice and the Government ought to deal with it (cheers). The people of Harrowgate wanted a buriaL ground, and they applied to the ground landlord for some very poor agri- cultural land belonging to him outside the town. He demanded JE1200 an acre for it. A reference to the assessment roll showed that the property was Assessed for local rates at JE5 an acre (hear, hear). Devon- port was another instance. The freehold of thar town was bought for tl2,000, and now it was yielding tSO,000 a year (cries of "No, no ). Well, what was it yielding (an hon. member- £ 14,000)? Even at that figure "Ile case was strong enough. The town < Fraserburgh was another illustra- tion. The whole of the property there be- longed 10 Lord Saltoun. The Corporation had Spl'llt £ 150,000 in improving the har- bour, and t36,000 upon other improve- ments. It was this expenditure which had in -r. ased Lord Saltoun's rental, but he did not 'ontribute anything towards the rates. On the contrary, he was one of the noblemen who were receiving alms at the hands If the Government every year as dis- tressed agriculturists (hear, hear). He held that it qjras time the burden of the llf- ban ratepayers should be fairly distributed among ad those whose property was in- creased by means of local expenditure. The Government could not sincerely advance the argument that the /v. commission was sitting as an answer to this motion. Mini- sters ga v,) endless pledges at the last elec- tion, blt they had not redeemed them. They had appointed committees and com- missions that had fought one or two rear- guard actions, while they themselves had been running away with the loot (laughter). They were experts in Boer tactics. Pro- bablv that was due to their great political mobility (laughter). The Rating Commis- sion had not met this year. It had given up the farce of sitting. There was a mem- ber of the Government at its head, and if they bad been -in earnest, who doubted that they would have examined the ques- tion and dealt with it long ago. The Liquor Committee was appointed at the same time to deal with a much more com- plicated and difficult subject, and it re- ported last year. But this Commission had been deliberately allowed to drag on in order to prevent a report being given, for the Government did not intend to deal with the grievances of the urban ratepayers. He submitted that the case was one of. urgency, not only because the burden was a growing one, but because it was crippling municipal authorities in their efforts to deal with some of the greatest problems such as the housing question-which faced them at present. It was not too much to ask the Government to compel the great ground landlords-some cf them making from £100,000 to L200,00 a year-to bear their fair share of the burden of local taxation (cheers). Mr G. Whit ley took the same view as Mr Lloyd Ger ge. Mr Chaplin said the question of the taxa- tion of ground values was most complicated and difficult, and it would be disrespectful on his part to express an opinion on a sub- ject which a Commission had been asked expressly to investigate. j The resolution was rejected by a major- ity of 14Q votes to 98.

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