Tag Archives: Government

A very local housing crisis and our crap politicians

In the UK, politicians and hand-wringing professionals from organisations like Shelter are always complaining about ‘Britain’s Housing Crisis’ and that ‘young couples can no longer afford to buy a home’ or ‘greedy buy-to-let landlords are snapping up properties that should go to first-time buyers’ and so on and on and on…

They say that prices have risen so fast that young couples can no longer afford to get on the housing ladder. They say we are in the midst of a ‘HOUSING CRISIS’.

Paxman asked why are our politicians so crap?

Photo of Jeremy Paxman
Jeremy Paxman asked why are our politicians so crap?

Well, in my opinion this is a very local housing crisis and one largely the fault of, to quote a recent brilliant Jeremy Paxman programme, our CRAP politicians. To coin a phrase, I agree with Jeremy. All our politicians and think-tanks etc say that we have to build more homes and they use euphemisms like ‘affordable’ and of course the stupid Labour Party always wants more ‘social’ housing and want to get rid of all those evil landlords.

But as usual all of them fail to see the bigger picture. Although in most parts of South East England house prices are indeed beyond the reach of most first-time buyers and young people are forced to pay very high rents to live in even ordinary accommodation, it’s not like that everywhere in Britain.

So in Camden, one of the fastest appreciating areas in terms of house prices, property is more than 3.5 times as expensive as it was 10 years ago. However, in parts of Liverpool prices are actually 44% LESS than they were 10 years ago! And prices are also actually LESS in parts of Bradford, Hartlepool, Middlesborough and Sunderland. And of course where they have risen, they have not risen nearly as much as in London.

Table showing details of negative changes in house prices in some northern cities and towns.

Property prices are driven partly by availability of credit, but also by DEMAND – the demand by people to live in areas of their choice. Part of that choice depends on availability of employment and availability of employment depends on investment, both public and private.

H2O Yes – HS2 No!

The government has totally failed over the years to invest in the North of Britain and to properly incentivise businesses to relocate there. They have failed to build the required infrastructure, particularly railways. Look at the insanity of two current massive government infrastructure projects, HS2 (or H2O as I heard it referred to by an LBC caller) and Heathrow Expansion.

Whilst being wholly in favour of H2O, HS2 on the other hand is an insane project, that even if built will largely benefit the South. And as for Heathrow expansion, that obviously will do nothing at all to boost the economies of northern towns and cities. and everything to make life even more intolerable for those living in and around London. Boris Johnson did promise to lie in front of the bulldozers to stop it but although extremely adept at lying about most things he isn’t going to lie in front of any bulldozers.

If we just continue to try and satisfy the insatiable demand of people to live in London and the South East of England by building more homes we will end up having to build more homes, and then still more homes and so on until the quality of life in the south east becomes intolerable. It’s already impossible to get anywhere easily on our crowded roads and packed trains and no one can get a doctor or hospital appointment within a reasonable space of time.

The sustainable solution

So, instead of bleating on and on about building more affordable homes whilst expanding Heathrow and spending an unimaginable amount of money on HS2, the government should invest properly in the North and offer real financial incentives to industry and business to relocate there. Then employment will increase, young people won’t be forced to relocate to London and the South East to work and the housing crisis will very gradually ease.

LandlordsandLetting – Affordable Landlord Insurances

New Government Plans for Future Buy-To-Let Landlord Laws?

Now Theresa May’s government has its sights set on The Evil Landlord.

NOTE: None of these new regulations are expected to apply to limited companies holding more than 100 properties.

After Dave and George had exhausted benefits claimants and the disabled as their chosen targets for blame, they found Buy To Let Landlords, who are now fast becoming the nation’s favourite bêtes noir, after bankers, estate agents and journalists of course. Now Theresa May’s government is following in the footsteps of its predecessor.

Following the current torrent of anti-landlord legislation from our so-called Conservative government, these are some futuremeasures I can imagine being considered by The Treasury and the Ministry for Communities and Local Government, plus a new government quango being set up – see below.

2019. Psychological Assessments for Landlords
This will make it mandatory for all existing and prospective landlords to undergo Psychological Assessments for Landlords (PAL) to verify their fitness to be a landlord. These will take up to two hours, to be carried out by qualified Government Approved Psychologists. Cost estimated at around £490.00 plus VAT. Note that private landlords will not be able to claim back the cost of these PALs and furthermore they will not be an allowable business expense.

The tests themselves

The tests will include the famous word association test where subjects are asked to interpret what they see in random ink blot shapes. For example, they will be shown a photo of a student and if they say something like, ‘Cash cow to be exploited and degraded at every opportunity’ or something to that effect they will be marked down.

Where landlords fail the tests, in some cases they will be offered ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy). This would be supervised by qualified psychiatrists and could last a fortnight and cost up to £7400.00. At the end of this they could then re-take the PAL – if they were still conscious that is.

Those that refuse the PAL will be required to sell their properties within 12 months or face an additional surcharge of 15% CGT, or a maximum of 6 months Community Service, whichever causes them the greater suffering.

2019. Mandatory CRB Checks for Residential Landlords

All existing and prospective (if there are any by then) landlords will be forced to undergo a full Criminal Records Bureau check.

Projected for 2020. New maximum age limit of 55 for all new landlords

No one over the age of 55 will be allowed to become a landlord and all those currently over that threshold age will be required to dispose of their existing properties within 12 months. Those not doing so will be subject to a 15% CGT levy or a maximum 6 months imprisonment.

Landlords who fail the PAL (see above) will also be required to walk around a designated local area for up to 4 hours over a period of one week, carrying sandwich style boards with big red lettering saying ‘I AM A LANDLORD AND I AM AN UNFIT PERSON’.

Authorised people, ie local government officers, MPs, members of Generation Rent and registered tenants will be allowed to pelt them with rotten eggs and tomatoes – no solids will be allowed. In some cases it will also be permissible to beat landlords with rolled up copies of The Guardian or New Statesman – but not both at once.

Rent Controls

Before any flat or house is let, a local authority officer will be required to inspect it and set a maximum rent for the next 12 months.

A Rent Assessment Visit (RAV) will take place within 2 months of application by the landlord, at a cost of £275.00 per property.

This, combined with all the other anti-landlord laws is expected to lead to a decrease in available rented accommodation and thus a consequent rise in demand over supply. So, anticipating this, where a landlord is advertising a property for what will be far below the market rent and receiving applications of more than 500 prospective tenants, then the landlord will be required to raffle the property or alternatively arrange a 100 metre sprint to see which of the prospective tenants shall be permitted to rent it.

Penalties for Landlords

Penalties for transgression of any of the above will range from an extra 15% CGT on the disposal of a buy-to-let property, to fines of up to £20,000 or 4 years’ imprisonment. Boroughs will also be allowed to set up Landlord Pillory Facilities where repeat offenders will be chained for up to 24 hours while rotting vegetables, soft fruit and insults will be hurled at them.

Bureau for the Administration of Landlord Legislation and Supervision (BALLS)

From 2020, the Government is proposing to set up a new quango called the Bureau for the Administration of Landlord Legislation and Supervision (BALLS), with an expected staff of 4000 people. BALLS will oversee all this new legislation and will consider future controls should they be deemed necessary.

I know it all sounds far-fetched but back in 2000 so would all the anti-landlord legislation that exists today.

Landlords and Letting – Affordable Landlord Insurance

 

How Labour WASTED £12.4 billion on NHS IT System

UPDATE MAY 2017

I originally wrote this article over two years ago, but I am re-publishing it in the light of the latest success of the worldwide hacking attack that has hit the NHS so hard.

This blog is essentially about property and general money matters, so admittedly this is a little out of its normal scope. However, it certainly IS also about money and, given that Labour are endlessly preaching about spending more of our money on their sacred cow, the NHS, I feel compelled to try to remind people of Labour’s incredible ability to waste massive amounts of our money on it.

The way the NHS has been affected by the latest worldwide hacking attack underlines the low quality of senior management in the NHS. This though is not a party political failing, more one of complacent and inefficient management.

NHS Computer System – what was it?

Simply put, it was envisaged that it would be a national patient record IT system, linking health professionals, hospitals, GP practices etc. The project was originally started in 2002, with a total budget of £2.3bn envisaged! Imagine you asked a builder to estimate for some work on your house and he quoted £50,000 but when he gave you the bill, it was for £269,000!

In 2005 a government agency, grandly called NHS Connecting for Health was formed to administer the project.  Various private IT companies were subsequently awarded contracts by the Department of Health and the whole bloody fiasco was presided over by a succession of ever so well-meaning Labour Secretaries of State for Health. So let’s remind ourselves of those names…

The Ministers Responsible

Alan Milburn  (October 1999 – June 2003)
John Reid  (June 2003 – May 2005)
Patricia Hewitt (May 2005 – June 2007)
Alan Johnson  (June 2007 – June 2009)
Andy Burnham (June 2009 – May 2010) (as of December 2014 – current Shadow Secretary of State for Health)

Yes Minister

As usual, it seems impossible to uncover all the names of the useless senior civil servants in the DoH and this is the way they always work, by remaining effectively shadowy and anonymous. Thus we have phrases like ‘The DoH decided that’ or ‘The DoH awarded the contracts to’ etc etc.  It’s as if a huge stone building in Whitehall actually signed off poorly drafted contracts. Various names are available however, such as David Nicholson (associated with the Mid Staffs scandal), Richard Granger, Gordon Hextall, Richard Jeavons and Harry Cayton.

Saving contractors money

Richard Granger is of particular interest. He was the Director General of IT for The NHS, on a basic salary of around a £280,000 a year. And that was back in 2006 when £280,000 a year was good money. The ridiculous costs for this project should have been lessened by clauses in their contracts which made the contractors liable to pay massive compensatory sums to the DoH in the event that they withdrew from the projects.  Accenture, just one of the contractors, withdrew in 2006 and, instead of charging them £1 billion, as their contract allowed, it’s reported that Richard Granger charged them just £63 million – a massive saving for Accenture of about £937 million – and an extra cost of £937 million to all of us! Granger apparently started his career with Andersen Consulting…which subsequently went on to become Accenture. Interesting.

The project was FINALLY abandoned on 2013 with total costs of around £12.4bn – a revised cost that had already been predicted by the National Audit Office as far back as June 2006.

‘Doctors and Nurses…Doctors and Nurses’

When justifying yet another raid on our pockets in the form of higher taxes, the Labour Party are fond of endlessly talking about ‘Doctors and Nurses, Doctors and Nurses’ and that if we want enough ‘Doctors and Nurses’ we must pay even more tax.  So, next time you hear the lovely Andy Burnham bleating about ‘creeping privatisation’ by the Tories and  preaching about ‘Labour’s Commitment to properly funding the NHS’ and that the NHS is only ‘safe in their hands’…remember The Great NHS Computer System Scandal. Mr Burnham admittedly came in on the tail end of it but it WAS a Labour project from the start.

This Labour Government Project WASTED £12.4 billion of OUR MONEY. They might as well have stuffed it all down the nearest drain – except of course that it made a few (private) IT companies very rich indeed and helped pay the mortgages of a number of obscenely overpaid civil servants like Dave Nicholson (‘Sir David’ to the sycophants in our society), Richard Granger and many others.

£12.4 billion – How else could they have spent it?

I’ve done a few back of fag packet calculations (as Nigel Farage would say). Naturally they are very approximate, although nowhere near as approximate as government estimates of costs!

  • Assuming an average salary of £22000 pa…approximately 563000 nurses for a year or 28000 nurses for 20 years!
  • Assuming a very generous salary of £100,000 pa we could have employed 124000 GPs for one year.
  • Don’t know how much a hospital costs but I reckon we could have a had a few of them for £12.4 billion.

And finally, if they hadn’t WASTED this mountain of money maybe the inappropriately named NIHCE would have been able to license more expensive life-saving drugs and therapies.

Of course, this scandal is symptomatic of how government and the civil service waste our money on an industrial scale. I seem to remember that Phillip Green was commissioned by the Government in 2010 to find ways of saving cash. He estimated that up to £20 billion a YEAR could be saved with more focussed and aggressive procurement strategies.

I have to credit the majority of the informational details here thanks to the great Wikipedia. So if you don’t believe me, just check it out. Of course I want a great NHS that is free at the point of delivery only to settled citizens of this country, but we don’t have to pay more tax for it, they just have to stop wasting our money.

As a footnote, when I entered the search term £12.4 billion NHS Computer System into Google, even Google couldn’t believe it and said ‘Did you mean £12.4 million?’

 

Landlords and Letting

Yet another landlord Law on the horizon

It seems that Buy-to-Let Landlords are slowly joining bankers, estate agents and MPs as the latest pantomime villains. “Oh no they’re not!” you may say, but I would say “Oh yes they are!”

For the past few years there have been rumblings from the Labour Party about Rent Control and a number of lefty councils have for several years been operating a compulsory registration schemes for landlords. These are ostensibly designed to control ‘rogue landlords’ who let out sheds in their back gardens in places like Tower Hamlets, Newham etc, but in reality it’s yet another money-making scam to milk landlords, because of course there’s a handy Registration Fee.

Attacking the Evil Landlord over ‘Revenge Evictions’

There have been documented cases of rogue landlords evicting tenants after the tenants have complained about their accommodation, such as a boiler not working properly etc. LibDem MP Sarah Teather is introducing a Private Member’s Bill designed to put an end to this outrageous practice – and it is outrageous. The bill will have received its second reading by the end of November 2014 and the aim is that it should become law next year.

“Buy to Let Landlords are a disaster for Britain and the economy”

“Outlaw Revenge Evictions’ so says Shelter, the housing charity “…”It’s time to stop the light-touch approach to the private rented sector” – Tom Copley, New Statesman, “Buy to Let Landlords are a disaster for Britain and the economy” – Phillip Inman, The Guardian (who else!). And so the fashionable anti-landlord rhetoric mounts…

It seems that Ms Teather’s Bill will receive Government support, so there is a fair chance that it will make it on to the Statute Book by next year – no doubt it would have to be before the election, because after that the LibDems will no doubt all but disappear!

Sarah Teather’s Bill

Landlords can already suffer if it is found that they have not dealt with the security deposit in the prescribed manner and it usually mean that should they seek a Repossession Order that a judge will not grant it if he or she discovers that the deposit has not been ‘protected’. The idea of this bill is that landlords will suffer the same fate if it is found that they have evicted a tenant ‘without good reason’. Obviously it will be for a judge to decide whether or not a landlord had ‘good reason’ to evict a tenant.

The Road To Hell

Like all recent dewey-eyed government legislation it is very well-intentioned but let’s hope that it is not something that can be abused by bad tenants. Of course we must remember the old saying that ‘The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions’. The problem with the current bunch of boys and girls (most of whom have never done a proper job) is that they are obsessed with ‘rogue landlords’. They forget that there are many ‘rogue tenants’ too.

But, as I said, there is a fashionable tide running against buy to let landlords, who are increasingly being portrayed by those of a liberal tendency to be the root of all evil. I think all landlords should be aware of this tide because there will be more and more anti-landlord legislation on the way – particularly if that bunch of Labour losers get in again in May 2015!

UPDATE DECEMBER 2014

Looks like this legislation has been delayed by the actions of Conservative MPs at Westminster. But we’ll keep you posted.

 

Landlords and Letting