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Archive for the category “UK Housing & Land”

Open Letter to Older Voters

As an ‘older voter’ myself I feel qualified to write this open letter to my contemporaries many of whom, it seems, tend to become more right wing and vote Tory in elections. Why this should be is somewhat puzzling and the purpose of this missive.

Older people it is generally recognised tend to be more set in their ways but political leanings fly in the face of this generalisation. Could it be that as life expectancy diminishes resistance to change increases along with a desire for security as represented by continuity, money and assets? If so and I can think of no other reason, this is illusory.

People of my generation, those born in the 40’s 50’s and early 60’s were indeed very fortunate in that during their early and middle years they had security of housing, they bought houses or were more or less assured of a Council house for life. They had good ongoing health care from the newly formed NHS, good and free education up to and beyond a university degree and perhaps most importantly, employment was all but guaranteed as soon as ceasing formal education. For those who trod the craft or trade route apprenticeships were long, meaningful, detailed and effective training with a long experienced time served craftsman leading to a worthwhile and life long well paid career.

In the early 1980s under Tory Prime Minister Thatcher, the big con trick of the Right to Buy Scheme was started, not because she thought it would be ‘nice’ but because of the ideology that people with a mortgage are de facto in debt, heavily in debt and that means over a 25 plus year period they will be handing over a huge amount of their earnings to Tory friends, the bankers. In addition people whose home may be at risk if they fail to make the repayments become servile and compliant and unless pushed to the limit will not go on strike for better pay or conditions; in fact will even accept a cut in income without much dissent. As more and more of the social housing was sold off, much of it incidentally ending up in the hands of Tory landlords, an obvious shortage of homes was created leading to ever increasing house prices that is unabated to this day.

Much has been written about housing, including some of my blogs here, so I wont go deeper into it except that the dash for home ownership resulted in and was encouraged by not only the Tories but also the Blair government, a slight feeling of superiority by owners over renters. It was interesting at the time to see some of my friends who had voted Labour all their life until getting a mortgage, almost overnight becoming Tories. Little did they know that they would be working harder, longer, for less and that it would eventually require two of them to work to pay the one debt. Mortgages today can now stretch beyond a lifetime into the next generation; the transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the rich elite gathers pace.

No one likes to be proved wrong or admit to being duped and so it is natural for most to close their minds to even that possibility, to cling to that superior feeling that brings comfort which by default means a resistance to change. This is how older voters come to be more right wing and how they come to vote for a Tory government and their ‘austerity’ that only applies to the working and middle classes but not them.

Wait a minute though my older voting friends! Most of you will have children and grandchildren perhaps even great grandchildren, what of them?  Perhaps you are thinking you can leave them your house albeit split between however many offspring you have, less tax and fees etc. so they’ll still need a mortgage and a big one with prices increasing way above inflation. The same people that made you pay roughly twice the sale price for your home will happily do the same for your descendants. These same people also want the destruction of our NHS for their profit, do you want your descendants to have to pay for private health care or go without and do you want them to be denied the education they would like on the grounds of cost? Of course you don’t but to ensure their safety you have to admit to yourself, no one else, that you were duped and make the changes necessary in the polling booth.

 

 

 

 

 

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UK Housing Prices & Inheritance

The Governor of The Bank of England has again warned of the risk to our faltering small recovery and of the need to build more houses or the increasing likely hood of raising interest rates to dampen down house price inflation. Also in the news is the widening gap between the rich and the relatively poor.

Political attention is likely to focus on the house price boom because for politicians this is the easy option but this is allied to increasing inequality of not just wealth but also inequality of opportunity. The main cause of inequality is inheritance and if this were tackled the housing inflation problem would largely solve itself. Many of the last generation bought homes at more or less sensible prices and have seen their value increase many times over the general inflation rates, an increase that is not earned. When they perhaps down size or die they can pass on to their children large sums which their offspring can use to buy their own homes; homes that without this unearned windfall they could not otherwise contemplate. This of course helps to both maintain and fan the fires of house inflation.

In addition to passing on their inflated homes, the wealthy also can afford to give their children the best start in life with all the advantages that money can bring and bequeath their accumulated funds that enable the offspring to acquire even more and so the cycle continues. Apart from a few exceptional individuals the poor will remain poor and indeed, become even more deprived as wealth becomes more concentrated in the hands of a small minority. The result of this imbalance is that the nation as a whole will lose out on ideas, businesses and social benefits due to the suppression of the less well off who cannot make or even recognise the best use of their talents or from lack of capital to advance their ideas.

What we need, but is at present anyway, unlikely to be done, is a strong inheritance tax which some may say is even punitive. If someone builds up huge wealth there is no reason that he/she should not enjoy a rich lifestyle for as long as they live but equally there is no reason why their children should continue to enjoy that lifestyle simply by being born into that family. Money raised from this taxation could then be used to improve the conditions of the many and provide start up funding for brilliant new ideas and enterprises.

There would be many arguments against a firm inheritance tax and it’s implementation would be difficult but not impossible. How it could be done is what we pay politicians for.

 

 

WARNING UK

WARNING! Never mind that over a million people are on zero hours contracts so don’t show up as unemployed or that thousands have their benefit suspended for spurious reasons and they too don’t show as unemployed. The official unemployment figures now show 6.8% so remember, the Governor of The Bank of England said ‘when unemployment falls below 7% he will consider raising interest rates.

You should know by now, I’ve told you often enough, that those who are really in control want you in debt, lots of debt, so watch out as your mortgages will soon rise and your credit charges go up.

The Cameron Cancer

Would you pay £47.51 for a chicken? Of course not! If the cost of chickens had increased at the same rate the same rate as house rentals over the last 30 years that is what you’d be paying.

A majority of people believe that benefits should be cut, they have swallowed the Tory lies. Housing benefit rose by £1 billion last year and you are lead to believe that it went to the lazy workshy or to single mothers or to drug addicts. In fact 98% went to people who are actually in work! The continuing shortage of housing and landlords greedily ripping off the State are the reasons behind this incredible increase; to cut benefits is to tackle the problem from completely the wrong end.

Cameron’s answer is to compel thousands of our fellow citizens to move hundreds of miles from their homes, their friends and families, and to drag children away from their schools. Under 25’s to be forced to go home to their parents after further education or training rather than starting employment (if they can find any) on low wages because they simply can’t afford a roof over their head. This is the economics of the madhouse.

The arrogance of this extremely wealthy Prime Minister beggars belief, in that he thinks that by kicking away the crutch of a cripple it will make him walk. He cannot countenance the real solution as this would possibly affect his and his rich friends grasp on the national wealth. Embark on a massive house building program which not only employs building workers but also manufacturing by way of the building materials but also every new home will need carpets, curtains, furniture, the list is almost endless, creating even more jobs. Rents to be controlled by law and the National Minimum Wage increased substantially to catch up with what it should be worth. This would also put more of the burden onto employers rather than the tax payers.

It was announced today that government borrowing for the month of May increased by £2 billion more than expected due mainly to lower tax receipts. What the hell do they expect? 2.6 million out of work and 1.4 million in part time work wishing they were in full time employment and therefore not paying any or very little income tax. This regime is a cancer spreading over our land and the only therapy that will work is to cut it out and soon.

Only 10% Cut So Far and still in Recession

It’s not good is it? Officially back into the recession that we’ve barely left for two years, despite the Con?Dems austerity program. A program I might add that has so far only implemented just 10% of their planned cuts to expenditure.

This government, with no real mandate from the people is the most vicious I can ever recall, yes, worse even than Margaret Thatcher and particularly bad because they are utterly incompetent, arrogant, out of touch with reality and unable to listen. They were warned, not just by me and assorted other bloggers, but by many financial experts, that their plans pointed towards disaster. Not of course, disaster for them personally as most are millionaires well cushioned with their tax havens and trust funds but disaster for countless citizens of our lands.

Unemployment and fear thereof in the millions and rising including huge numbers of our young people who now may never get a job, hospital waiting lists getting longer, home repossessions on the increase and poorer tenants being compulsory moved from London and South East to the North, leading towards a North/South divide like never before. Thatcher left little public assets untouched but now even the jewel in the crown, our NHS, is being sold off for private profit along with our schools. It didn’t take a genius to predict all this would happen so it has to be assumed that these are deliberate policies conjured up for the sole benefit of those who have manipulated themselves into power.

The current situation tends to lead the electorate into a depressed condition whereby apathy takes over along with a feeling of individual isolation which in turn leads to a sense of powerlessness. We are not though powerless if we collectively recognise that the power is ours and we can take it back from those to whom we unwittingly lent it. We can demand change and change we will get but only if we work together for the benefit of us all. We must remind those who say they can’t be bothered with politics that politics is health, employment, education, social services, the cost of fuel, pensions or whether your sons or daughters are going to war.

Benefits – Wrong Cuts

The Bishops .in particular, in the House of Lords are speaking out against the proposed Welfare benefit cuts and putting aside the fact that Bishops are un-elected and should have no place in our law making process, they are right to do so.

Yes there is a problem with too much being paid out but this is not the fault of the claimants at whom the government likes to point the finger of blame. As usual governments and particularly Tory ones, wear blinkers and always react by hitting the weakest hardest rather than looking more deeply into a problem. Stopping just short of naming them as ‘scroungers’ ministers speak of them as ‘getting’ £25000, £35000 + per year but let’s just pause and think for a moment. Who is actually ‘getting’ this largesse? A not uncommon rent in London and other large cities could be £300 per week which equates to nearly £16,000 in a year and this goes to Landlords who are generally investment companies and rich individuals taking advantage of a cronic housing shortage and the, so far, willingness of the welfare system to keep paying. It is the Landlords who are ‘getting’ the payouts not the claimants.

Tackle the greed of landlords, tackle the housing shortage and there will be no need to uproot people, to risk family breakdown and impose intolerable stress on individuals. These proposals should be fought  with as much vigor as was the Poll Tax but I doubt it will happen. The Poll Tax affected everyone, these proposals affect only a weak and demonised minority.

Choices

Let’s face it this country is in a mess! It’s like a ship in a raging storm heading towards rocks and the captain shouts “Hold this course!” His Lieutenant who hopes one day to become captain shouts “Hold this course but slow down a bit.” The little cabin boy can see the rocks but feeling helpless crawls into  his hammock and puts his hands over his eyes and cotton wool in his ears, holding on to a blind trust in the madness of the officers because to do otherwise would require him to DO something.

The UK, along with other Western nations, owes money, a lot of money and so it was rightly decided to reduce this debt and this is where our witless leadership went wrong. They had no one with vision or moral integrity and so they set about taking money from those who had little, those without, they believe, power, attacking the sick, the pensioners, students, the lower paid workers who actually produce the wealth that makes us the 6th richest nation on Earth. They chose not to rein in the bankers and financial directors, they chose not to go after those who avoid paying their proper share of taxation amounting to tens of billions each year because they themselves belong to, or aspire to belong, to that elite band. They chose not to save up to £200billion by cancelling the Trident nuclear weapon system which will never be used and deters no one simply because this would deprive them of a seat at the top table of the United Nations. Instead of strutting they may have to walk like the rest of humankind.

They chose not to invest in a massive social housing programme that is desperately needed for millions of our citizens and would create and safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs. In it’s wake this would generate spending power for the workers thus creating more employment and in addition, tax revenues. A bi product would also be a likely reduction in ever increasing housing rental costs which (some) greedy landlords are reaping in such places as London where tenants are now to be evicted because of government cuts to housing benefit. Instead they chose borrowing even more to fund rapidly increasing unemployment which is a tried and tested method of keeping wage increases to a minimum. Not such a surprising choice either when many of those currently in power like Chris Grayling, are indeed wealthy property owners.

We too though have choices. Even in this poor democracy of ours we do not have to be like the cabin boy; the power ‘they’ hold is in reality, our power that we lend to them. They stick together but they are only a few, we are millions and if only we can stick together and demand a new way, a new vision, then we can take back our power and steer our ship away from the rocks, into calmer waters of fairness, justice, democracy, co-operation and peace.

But have we the guts?

Social ‘Cleansing’

Under this ideologically driven government, because of changes to the Housing Benefit system, many thousands of tenants will be driven from their homes, their neighbourhoods,  their children from their schools and away from their friends and support networks. In addition many, as a result, will also lose their jobs.

Were all the tenants of similar ethnic backgrounds this would be classed as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and would be illegal under international law and questions would be raised in the United Nations and most likely sanctions imposed on the UK.  The tenants though are not all similar only sharing the inability to pay criminally high rents. They will be forced to move to the outer suburbs, assuming that accommodation there is available, thus leaving their old homes for the wealthy. This is surely ‘Social Cleansing’ which to our ever lasting shame is ‘legal’. In addition no mention has been made of the costs of moving; credit reference checks, deposits, carpets, curtains etc and the actual cost of removal. These additional burdens to placed on people of low income.

Yes I can see that some housing benefit costs are ludicrously high and unsustainable but putting the blame on the tenants is like blaming the victim of a mugger for being in that particular street at that particular time of the day.

So what could be done in ‘fairness’, that much abused word of late? Cap the current rent as it is and leave the tenants where they are. When they move or die then bring in the Housing Benefit level at that proposed, for new tenancies.  If the landlords don’t like it, let them squirm or threaten them with compulsory purchase at the lowest national rate. The real problem though is of course a lack of affordable housing. A large and sustained building programme should be embarked upon to house the 1.8 million on housing waiting lists and this would also create thousands of jobs not only in building but in manufacturing and the service sector. The only problem of course is that Conservatives are also capitalists through and through and capitalism depends on a pool of unemployed to keep wages down and a housing shortage to keep those prices up and so increase profits.

 

Poverty… Why?

A report out recently shows that the gap between the richest in Britain and the poorest has widened. I can’t say that it surprised me. In the usual and expected politician double speak Gordon Brown said “The report illustrates starkly that despite a levelling-off of inequality in the last decade we still have much further to go.” No Gordon, it didn’t say a ‘levelling off’ it said ‘widened’. We have indeed got further to go, in fact we actually need to make a start.

Those that know me often say that I lay the blame for almost all of the ills in this country at the feet of Margaret Thatcher, including this severe winter. Well, she did waste the windfall of North Sea oil and closed down 300 years supply of coal but that’s another story. What Thatcher did, very cleverly, was to break the strength of the Trade Unions and at the same time make the working population believe that this was a good thing. She then set about selling off most of our publicly owned assets such as our gas (remember ‘Tell Sid?), electricity, water and railways. She knew perfectly well that shares would largely end up with the financial institutions but fooled many into believing that they were ‘part of a share holding democracy’. Above all she put the notion of individualism, get what you can for yourself and the devil take the hindmost into the national psyche.  In 1997 the nation with a collective sigh of relief elected New Labour with most not realising that Tony Blair was but a toned down Thatcher with a smiling face. The result being that the inequality gap has widened still further.

The Labour Party was originally brought into being by the Trade Unions to fight for the rights of it’s members and to bring about a more equal and fair society and forced through enormous benefits, the National Health Service being just one example. The (New) Labour Party of today has morphed into just another wing of the capitalist system that lies at the root of all our ills. The budget of yesterday, despite the crying need to balance the books, made it easier to buy a house and saddle the working population with a life long mortgage around their necks and thus restricting their ability to dissent.  In addition this reliance on house prices ever increasing, played a large part in the recent economic crash and yet the Chancellor encourages more of the same.

So is it ‘Time for Change’ and bring back the Tories? Definitely not, New Labour is still the lessor of the evils but an evil non-the-less and although it’s perhaps worth voting for Lib Dems where they have a chance, real change will only come about when the people accept the hardest thing of all and realise that they have been duped for several generations and rise up with one voice and demand a new way.

Here We Go Again!

The housing market is on the move again of that there is little doubt and of course along with it the cost of buying a home is rising albeit slowly at the present time. The highest level of unemployment in my region stands at 6% which of course is not much fun for those without work but it does mean that 94% have jobs. Car production is rising once more and bankers bonus payouts are still obscene.

All this does not mean that the recession is over but points to it at least bottoming out. The massive bill to stave off the worst of the global economy crash will still have to be paid over the next couple of decades and will have some negative impact on most of us. Most of us being the ones who played no part in the disgraceful financial gambling of the past ten to twenty years although most of us were a part of the rampant consumerism that gripped the developed world.

A few minor inconveniences have been put in place to curb some of the excesses of the financial traders but by and large as the recovery gets under way it will be business as usual and so setting us up for a repeat performance in another decade or so down the line. Bankers will be making fortunes out of the future labour of ordinary people not even born yet, houses will be purchased as investments and not as homes to live in, industry will again expand and add to the climatic pollution that is already out of control.

This global catastrophe presented the World and I suggest, the UK in particular, with a golden opportunity for change. That chance has already been squandered and we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and the next time may not contain within it opportunity for change.

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