Friday, 21 September 2007

Conference

Lib-Dem conference is over. I attended every day, except to attend a Lewes Alternative Travel day on Wednesday afternoon.

The organisers did an excellent job. There were always too many interesting things going on, with debates and discussions in the conference hall, exhibitors of all kinds, and dozens of fringe events at breakfast, lunch and in the evening.

We passed new policy on the environment, political reform, the surveillance society, flood defences, gun crime, Darfur, and a host of other issues.

On the environment, we're promising to cut carbon emissions by 100% by 2050, with specific measures on transport, housing, electricity generation, etc. to get us there. But, most importantly, also including proposals to ensure that the developing world has access to technologies for carbon neutral development.

An interesting proposal - which was rejected for lack of detail - was for a new planning process which would allow local authorities to get more income from the development process. It's a two stage closed bid auction process, worked out by an economist who was a student of the guy who designed the 3G auctions which generated an astonishing £22.5 billion. That's 500,000 times more than the "beauty competition" that was used to sell off 2G licenses!

If this proposal was made to work, it would allow local authorities to raise enough money to properly support new private development with development of public services. At the same time, it would remove all the problems that are currently involved in negotiating with developers about section 106 agreements - where the developers currently hold all the strings. Too often, land owners and developers are acting as local monopolies at the moment, with their power derived from our local plans. Under this system, they'd be bidding against their peers, with the local authority calling the shots.

At a fringe event, we were told that all the main parties are interested in the proposal - and our leadership are to look at developing the proposal in detail. It's even possible that the income from such auctions might be enough to cut council tax completely!
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