Reimagining the City: Democracy and Land

Alan Reid kicks off our Manifesto process with an argument to radically decentralise democracy and nationalise land. Make your contribution to the Manifesto by contacting us here. Read the background to this project here.

My big idea is to nationalise all land. Owning land and making money out of its scarcity is not useful to society so therefore we should simply stop it. We could abolish land taxes such as Council Tax and business rates and replace them with rent paid to government for our use of that land. People would get a lifelong secure tenancy on the land for their private dwelling. Businesses would be able to take out fixed term leases. As each lease expires it would give both parties a chance to renew on terms reflecting the increased or decreased desirability of that land.

Local government should be reformed to devolve as much power as locally as possible. We should institute three tiers of local government:

  • Metropolitan: managing the metropolis as whole to keep the entire urban area functioning. Main responsibilities would be managing transport across the urban area and co-ordinating planning policy to ensure the city develops coherently.
  • Areas: Similar idea to current councils, where each area would consist of around 100,000 people. This would be the body that collects local taxes.
  • Communities: Representing around 25,000 people. The community councils would retain power for as many items as possible, particularly those matters that touch people’s day to day lives most. Planning decisions, street sweeping and cleansing, all pre-secondary education, maintenance of parks, parking control managed at this most local level.

My general rule of thumb for deciding at what level of local government is responsible then it should be viewed at what level each council would have at least one of. This means that a facility such as Pollok Park or a museum of international renown such as Kelvingrove, there is only a very small number of in a metropolitan area so this should be managed at a metropolitan level, but every neighbourhood has a nursery school so should be managed at a community level. This would prevent community or area councils being dumped with financial responsibility for providing services which are designed to serve the entire metropolitan area.

By moving decision making down to a local, community level it will empower these communities to take the lead in development and learning.Car dependency cannot be allowed to continue to be the norm in the cities in 21st century Scotland. To tackle this, I would end free parking and set a minimum tariff for out of town shopping centres. Local authorities would be free to set their own tariff at any level above this. You only have to see the damage Siverburn has done to Shawlands to see the negative impacts of out of town shopping.

All on-street parking would have to be permit controlled parking. I write this as a member of a two-person, two car household with both cars parked on the street. Essentially by allowing free on-street parking we are permitting the use of public land for the storage of private property. This way we can control the amount of space allocated to the parking of private cars. We can limit both the total number of cars parked and the number per household. Space can then be reallocated to anything from active travel (no cars blocking pavements or cycle lanes) to space for children to play.

In further moves to make our cities more liveable there should be an enforceable (and enforced) 20mph speed limit in urban areas. This will make our cities more pleasant to live in by making it safer for children to play in the streets and for people to walk and cycle safely.

Our travel priorities should change, within one mile of a neighbourhood or city centre the default priority transport method should be walking, within 3 miles – cycling, and beyond that bus / train. Space should be allocated away from private car users through better provision of walking, cycling and bus infrastructure. Indoor bus stations should be built at key points and interchanges in our cities.

Public transport should be managed at a metropolitan level. The target for public transport should not be revenue maximisation but maximising passenger numbers. A new ownership model for public transport operators should be 80% municipal and 20% worker, as we should be aiming for quality employment opportunities.

All levels of local government should have the power to issue debt to fund capital projects, including the provision of high-quality housing.

Public sector procurement should have an in-built bias against outsourcing. The question should be: is the supplier doing any more than using capital to provide staff? So yes, buy vans and laptops, no don’t hire cleaners.

To move away from endless growth, we should stop using GDP growth as a measure of success. Instead we should move to a basket of indices based on:

  • Health – life expectancy and years of healthy life, including in changes in both and comparisons with similar countries to see how we are performing relatively
  • Inequality – minimising inequality as measured by the 20:20 index
  • Education – educational attainment of the population
  • Happiness
  • Environment – air quality, water quality and carbon emissions
1 comment
  1. Please delete, dumb idea.
    Is land in center of a city the same as marsh land or that on top of mountain.
    Who wants to use public transport during a Pandemic.

    Grow up and your ideas might as well.

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