December 6, 2013
Doing some research on earnings in Swindon I discovered on the HMRC website that for 2010/11 earnings for self-employed people are very low. The average for Swindon was £13,200. However, the median, or mid-point, however, was only £9,790. So half of self-employed workers in Swindon earn less than this.
As it happens Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network has been looking at self-employment, as one possible explanation as to why unemployment has not risen to the level that might have been expected given the economic conditions. (See Richard Murphy’s report at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/2013/12/03/the-fast-disappearing-income-of-the-uks-self-employed/) Read the rest of this entry »
November 24, 2013
You can download a PDF of this here coalitionpropaganda
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”. All governments do it, putting a ‘spin’ on information or statistics in order to pretend that a particular policy is a roaring success when it isn’t, or is at least marking progress. If there is a germ of truth in such propaganda then it is likely to be more plausible. The coalition government, however, has produced some of the most dishonest propaganda such that there is a chasm between the picture it paints and the reality. Here’s an example of the new Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins presenting (some of) the latest housing statistics as proof that “government action is getting Britain building again”. Read the rest of this entry »
October 28, 2013
Download a PDFof this here strawman
“Do you think somebody on £75,000 a year should get a Council house?”
The question came from a Council Officer trying to justify turning Council housing into a means-tested tenure. Council Housing has never been means-tested. Currently applicants to the Housing List are not asked what their income is. However, as we shall see, the criteria for giving tenancies these days are such that anybody who is very well off would not stand much of a chance of gaining a tenancy, even in the unlikely event that they applied.
So what’s the answer to the question? The ‘common sense’ response would be ‘no’. Obviously somebody earning that much would be able to buy a home. Yet you have to ask the question would somebody on £75,000 a year want a Council house, never mind be given one? No, this spectral applicant on the waiting list is a straw man. It’s a trick question. Answer ‘no’ to it and it implies acceptance of introducing a means-test. Necessarily the question then follows where should the threshold be set? How much income is ‘too much’? This is no easy question to answer. Originally the Council was proposing a level of £38,000 a year, yet it had to rethink the issue. Even though they have started the consultation on changes to the Allocations Policy they haven’t even finalised where to set these thresholds which would have to be different according to the type of property, be it a flat or a house and varying numbers of bedrooms. Read the rest of this entry »
October 6, 2013
“Six more years of austerity” trumpeted the Financial Times in reporting George Osborne’s promise to carry on squeezing welfare and other public spending to meet “a new fiscal target”; that the UK should run a budget surplus by 2020. The scale of such a promise can by measured by the OBR’s projection that the budget deficit for 2017-18 will be £42 billion. With masterly under-statement, the FT says that to turn that into a surplus by 2020 will be “a challenging objective”. It will be equivalent to wiping out more than a third of the health budget. Far from mending the roof whilst the sun shines this is a recipe for letting the rain in owing to insufficient resources to mend the holes in the roof. Read the rest of this entry »
August 16, 2013
Download a PDF of this here helptobuy
The coalition government has brought forward ‘Help to Buy’ in an attempt to boost housing market activity. It provides, by way of the Homes and Communities Agency, an ‘equity loan’ to people who want to buy a house but cannot raise the large deposits that have been required since the housing crash. These may be up to 25% of the cost of the house for a first time buyer. ‘Help to Buy’ requires a minimum 5% deposit and the government will provide up to 20% ‘equity loan’ to bridge the gap between what the buyer can raise and what the deposit would otherwise be. The scheme provides £3.5 billion for an estimated 74,000 buyers. However, ‘Help to Buy’ is not just directed at first time buyers. It is designed to encourage any activity in the housing market. It applies to houses up to £600,000. So somebody sufficiently well off to buy a £600,000 house can get a loan of £120,000 from the government. Contrast this with the treatment of people on benefit, some of whom are expected to live on £71 a week Job Seekers Allowance and now face a benefit cut as a result of the ‘bedroom tax’. Read the rest of this entry »
August 5, 2013
‘Fixed term’ tenancies: unintended consequences
Last Wednesday I was on BBC Radio with Brian Mattock, Deputy Leader of Swindon Council, discussing the Councils proposed “Tenancy Strategy”. Brian’s role was to present the proposals in such a way that they appeared eminently reasonable and were nothing for anybody to fear. You might say he is the Mr Nice of the Nasty Party.
However, when the presenter asked “how do you determine who ‘deserves’ a tenancy” and who doesn’t, Brian tied to wriggle out of the issue. That was the government’s view, he said. However, the document which he voted on at the Cabinet meeting restated the policy of ensuring that Council housing goes to those ‘who deserve it’. Of course, this is nothing other than the coalition government’s modern version of the well known Victorian concept of the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ poor. At least with the current criteria there is an attempt to base the granting of tenancies on housing need. Deciding on whether somebody ‘deserves’ a tenancy is entirely subjective. It’s as if a tenancy is reward for good behaviour. That’s how one cabinet member described it. The giver of such ‘charity’ of course, has power over the recipient. Read the rest of this entry »
June 28, 2013
According to ‘Inside Housing’, the Housing Minister has revealed that landlords taking part in the new ￡3.3 billion round of “affordable rent” will have to enter into “’something for something’ efficiency deals with the government.” What might this mean you may ask? Mr Prisk told the Chartered Institute of Housing conference that landlords participating in what is said to be an 165,000 home programme would have to “find efficiencies, carry out conversions and disposals.
What this means is that in order to produce “affordable rent” homes (up to 80% of the market rate) landlords will have to agree to pay for this ‘privilege’ by converting homes on ‘social rents’ to “affordable rents” and sell off some of their social homes when they become vacant. In other words the programme wil denude the number of existing ‘social rent’ homes which a landlord has. Prisk wants landlords to maximise their own financial contribution. That’s because the subsidy per home falls from over ￡20,000 in the previous round to ￡18,000 in this one.
In response, Tom Murtha, head of Housing Charity HACT said “This is the sting in the tail and the beginning of the end of social housing for those in need.” Grania Long, Chair of CIH described the package as ‘modest but said “It is not the “game changer” required to make a significant impact to alleviate our housing crisis.”
The idiocy of this policy is that reducing the number of ‘social rent’ homes and increasing “affordable rent” will simply drive up the housing benefit bill. Indications from London and elsewhere is that only people on full housing benefit can afford “affordable rent”.
Carl Brown in Inside Housing commented that
“This is the clearest indication yet that the government is trying to accelerate the demise of social rented housing, pushing tenants into less affordable properties, while on the other hand seeking to restrict welfare which will underpin the rental income of these properties.”