Category Archives: Politics

Who really needs HS2 or Heathrow Expansion?

The horrible Coronavirus crisis has I think taught us a few very important lessons about hyper-mobility society we’ve been living in and the damage to lives and the environment that is the inevitable cost of it all.

Zoom and more

People have really woken up to video conferencing for a start. Maybe many of those so important ‘business’ trips aren’t so important after all. Maybe it’s not really necessary to fly 3000 miles to meet that client or supplier over lunch and an expensive bottle of wine.

Because of the restrictions Coronavirus has placed on travelling and socialising, we can see it’s quite possible for several people to successfully hold meetings online, at a fraction of the cost of actually flying there or indeed travelling several hundred miles there and back on a train.

Expansion profits Heathrow’s owners

John Holland-Kaye of Heathrow is frequently proclaiming how ‘essential’ Heathrow and its expansion is for the UK Economy. NO, it’s expansion is essential for the profits of the strangely named FGP Topco Ltd, British Airways and other major airlines there. Most goods arrive by container ship and in fact, although Holland-Kaye and his colleagues constantly bang on about Heathrow being a ‘business airport’, in fact it would seem there is a huge increase of business meetings during the summer holidays and at Christmas!

Of course, a certain amount of business travel is essential, but I would submit that a large amount is not and is often a cover for ‘jollies’ or even more dubious practices, as the hotels around Heathrow could confirm!

HS2 will mainly benefit London

As for the ridiculous vanity project that is HS2, our idiot politicians maintain it will ‘breathe life into the Norther Powerhouse’. No it won’t. It’ll just mean that high paid people who wish or need to work in London can live even further away.

Finally – remember ‘Climate Change’? Whilst motorists are constantly being penalised for driving thirsty cars, Heathrow jets are flying many thousands of miles on cheap aviation fuel and spewing out carbon dioxide and noxious gases at 30,000 feet. The aviation industry is the real polluter – not to mention the appalling noise jets make whilst doing it. And of course Heathrow expansion would mean turning the eastern end of the M4 and western section of the M25 into car parks.

Expand Broadband, not Heathrow

So, instead of expanding Heathrow and building HS2, let’s put in a really effective broadband network to cover the whole of the UK – far cheaper and not polluting at all.

Malcolm James Stretten

Landlords and Letting – Affordable Landlord Insurances

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?

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

Brexit – Let’s call the whole thing off!

Yes, I admit it, I voted in 2016 to leave the EU. And now I bitterly regret being taken in by all the nonsense spoken by Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and the other jokers.

Reasons to be Cheerless – one, two, three

To be honest I voted leave for three main reasons. One, I was and still am, concerned about the way immigration into south east England is causing great problems – travel, housing, schools, hospitals, GPs, water resources and so on. Two, I loathed David Cameron. And Three – I never dreamed it would actually happen!

Of course, if the ridiculous Boris Johnson hadn’t actually run away after the Referendum result perhaps we wouldn’t have a woman who campaigned to remain, so pusillanimously trying to negotiate our exit. And maybe, just maybe things wouldn’t be quite so bad. But essentially it’s not really hopeless Theresa’s fault.

David Cameron is the primary architect of this mess

The primary culprit is David Cameron, who in order to fend off UKiP, recklessly promised a referendum that, due to inaccurate polls, he never believed he’d have to hold. This man is a bloody disgrace and the second worst PM this country has ever had – I think we all know who the worst one was (clue – he was elected in 1997).

Also culpable however is Nigel Farage – a man driven by an obsession for over 20 years that the EU is our main enemy. What he fails to understand is that our main enemies are not in Brussels but in The Kremlin. In fact I believe he was offered his own show on RT (Russia Today) in 2016 although he did decline the offer. But it shows that, completely inadvertently, Brexiteers are furthering The Kremlin’s policies.

So should we stay, or should we go?

So all us regular folk, who are usually not even consulted about such pressing questions as whether the power of vacuum cleaners should be regulated, were presented with this one oh so simple question: Do you want to remain in the EU, or do you want to leave the EU? That’s simple isn’t it?

Had YOU ever heard of The Customs Union? Honestly?

However, what The Referendum didn’t ask was, if you want to leave, do you still want to be part of the Customs Union and have access to the single market or not be part of the Customs Union but still have access to the Single Market and would you like a soft, hard or medium soft border for Ireland and what about services do you feel that we should perhaps retain control of services but at the same time be able to strike deals with a deranged nationalist with a bad hair-do in the USA and are you happy that Putin is also firmly behind Brexit and in any case are you happy that Jean Claude Junker is usually drunk and anyway what about the fishing quota?

Who’d ever heard of The Customs Union? And in all that pre-referendum debate did ANYONE ever mention the border with Northern Ireland?

Boris DIDN’T get what he wished for

Of course, like little me, I am sure the Great Boris also never believed the Leave side would actually win – which was why he threw his weight behind it. If Remain had won as expected and predicted (those bloody polls agin) he would then have been able to have mounted a campaign for the leadership against his arch rival, Cameron. Two posh boys slugging it out. When Leave surprisingly won he knew it would be very very difficult – which was why he ran away. My favourite description of Boris Johnson is, just because he appears to be a bungling buffoon, doesn’t mean he isn’t. And he mainly got where he did because he did well on ‘Have I Got News For You’ – they’ve got a lot to answer for!

I still hate the EU – it is an appalling corrupt, wasteful and over-bureaucratic organisation with a Mickey Mouse currency but I realise we are better in it and campaigning aggressively to change it than be outside it. After all, we are not part of the Euro or the Schengen Agreement and we should have been way tougher with them while remaining inside the club.

A New Referendum with Three Options

UPDATE December 9th 2018
Theresa May has just negotiated a ‘Deal’ (I though we had a good one – not in Schengen and with our own currency) so let’s have another Referendum before it’s too late, but with THREE options:
1. Do you want Theresa May’s Deal?
2. Do you want to leave the EU without a deal?
3. Do you simply want to remain in the EU?

I would vote for option 3! But I would demand that our leaders be very awkward and cheat a bit when necessary. After all, that’s what countries like France, Italy and Hungary do quite successfully!

James Stretten – Landlords and Letting

The Americanisation of British Culture

This blog is usually about property, landlord stuff, money and a little bit of politics (as Ben Elton used to say). But I’ve written this because I am so disgusted as the way British people are increasingly becoming enslaved to US culture …and why!?

Hey! Can I get some cookies to go?

Or, translated into proper English this means ‘Have you got any biscuits to take away?’

Yes, this is of course a curmudgeonly attack on the way British Culture is being increasingly usurped by American Culture!  I have never understood why a great people like the British should be so in awe of a country in which millions go without health care and even middle class people can be bankrupted by chronic illness.  A country in which any crazed idiot can buy a machine gun and walk into a school and blow away a group of children and a country of 300 million plus people whose only choice of leader was Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump.

So why does America hold most of the world in its thrall?  Firstly, although America may be full of many stupid people, it’s also home to some of the greatest tech and business minds on the planet.  People like Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk and of course Bill Gates and institutions like NASA (which IS rocket science).  Secondly, there’s that institution called Hollywood that spreads the message of American Culture like a virus worldwide.  And Hollywood produces MOVIES not FILMS remember.

But surely it is the British of all the peoples in the world, that seem to swallow American Culture whole.  And it has to be said that young people seem to be the worst offenders.

Here are just a few examples of recent American hegemony over British Culture.

Black Friday

This annoying nonsense suddenly arrived on our shores several years ago.  I think Asda (or Walmart) were to blame.  Of course, rather than having to put up with it for just one day, Black Friday seems to last a month of Sundays, which is an old 19th century English phrase.

Cyber Monday

This comes after Black Friday, after everyone is exhausted buying stuff they neither wanted nor needed and involves lots of people tapping furiously at screens and giving their mice a hard time.

Trick or Treat!

As little as 20 years ago or so this bloody awful American import had yet to reach our shores.  Yes, we always used to mark Halloween but we didn’t have to put up with marauding bands of young teenagers terrorising neighbourhoods and demanding money with menaces.

Hey! You guys coming’ to my Baby Shower?

Yet another ghastly American import, where Moms (note the spelling) To Be, invite their hapless friends to a party to celebrate an expected birth of a new baby and also expect them to be bearing gifts.

Closets instead of Cupboards

Why can’t gay people just ‘come out of the cupboard’?  Why must they always hide ‘in a closet’?

‘Can I get a skinny latte to go’?

I don’t know!  Can you?  If you come round behind the counter and make it yourself then the answer is probably yes.

So now we ‘fill out’ forms instead of filling them in.  We pronounce ‘Privacy’ as Pryvacy.  Many people eat ‘cookies’ instead of biscuits, though I suppose that’s just the way the biscuit crumbles.  I’d love all these expressions to be consigned to the Rubbish Bin of History, except of course they’d just be ‘put out with the trash’

The Great Plague of Uptalking

Some people claim the Aussies are to blame for this but I believe it was the girls in the San Fernando Valley in California.  Of all the recent Americanisations that I hate the most, it must be the horrendous habit of UPTALKING!  Or as I would call it ‘Talking like Valley Girl’.  This arrived like the Great Plague in this country about 15 years ago and was spread mainly by young people. If you’re not sure what I mean?  It’s people going up at the end when they talk?  It’s like every statement ends with question mark?  It’s so annoying?  And it gives the impression that those people are unsure of what they are saying?

But now that plague has spread to older people?  In an effort to be ‘down with the kidz’ they are also increasingly adopting this way of speaking?  In fact, I find it almost impossible to listen to people up-talking, even if what they are saying is interesting?

That’s it – I’ll stop the up-talking now because I’m actually annoying myself and simply conclude thus.  Just because America is indeed the home of some genius people and some great music does not mean that a great nation like Britain should swallow whole every bit of crap culture they offer us.

Thank you and Goodnight!

James Stretten – Mr Angry of Maidenhead

Improving the home buying and selling process

The Department of Communities and Local Government is looking at ways of improving the home buying and selling process in the UK. Except Scotland, where it’s different.

Well, I say Three Cheers for them for finally addressing this problem. For too long, sellers have been able to gazump and buyers to gazunder, just before Exchange of Contracts. This is incredibly stressful and costly for both the gazumpee and the gazunderee – words as ugly as the practice itself!

I believe that the solution to improving the home buying and selling process is relatively simple. At present, when contracts are exchanged, the purchaser is required to deposit up to 10% of the purchase price. Very very rarely do people withdraw after this.

The Mini Deposit – Improving the home buying and selling process

So, all we need is a Mini Exchange of Contracts when an offer in writing is made and formally accepted. This is the point at which an agent typically issues a Memorandum of Sale. At this point both buyer and seller should be required by law to deposit a relatively small sum of, let’s say £1000 in Escrow. If either party choses to withdraw, offer less or demand more then the other party could receive their £1000 as compensation.

Of course, there would be certain circumstances wherein a purchaser could legitimately withdraw without forfeiting the £1000 mini deposit. Such circumstances could include cases where legal searches uncovered poor title.  Or perhaps a road passing through or close to the property in question.  A surveyor’s report  might have uncovered serious subsidence or dry rot. Again, if the seller accepted these findings and agreed voluntarily to reduce their price then the sale could still proceed.

However, where a purchaser, without good reason decides to offer less than the agreed amount then the deposit could be forfeited.  The seller would be at liberty to receive the purchaser’s £1000 and abort the sale. Similarly if the seller suddenly changes their mind or wanted more then the purchaser could elect to receive the seller’s £1000 and abort the purchase.

Concentrating minds at the point of the Memorandum of Sale

Apart from the stress of someone suddenly withdrawing, there’s the considerable legal and surveying costs that accrue. Thus the £1000 would at least go towards defraying these costs, but more importantly would concentrate the minds of both seller and purchaser at the point when an offer is made and accepted.

And of course this change in property law would not only benefit owner occupier sales and purchases but investment ones involving landlords and buy-to-let as well.

So, I think that’s a good way of improving the home buying and selling process in the UK. What do YOU think?

Landlords and Letting – Affordable landlord insurance

Theresa May to meet Arlene Phillips at No 10?

I was watching Sky News a couple of days ago and one of their reporters was doing a live report to camera outside No 10 Downing Street.  She actually announced that Theresa May was due to meet Arlene Phillips at No 10 on Tuesday.

Was this a mis-speak, as I assumed at the time…or was it actually true?

I know that Arlene Phillips is not the leader of the DUP, and is probably not a creationist or anti-gay in any way, but there were rumours last year of Arlene returning to Strictly Come Dancing.

Ed Balls does Gangnam Style

Here’s the thing. There’s quite a glittering record of failed politicians getting on Strictly.  The blonde Anne Widdecombe did it, although admittedly she showed she was no Ginger Rodgers. And we all know how ex-shadow Chancellor Ed Balls turned a political disaster of a career into a huge success on Strictly Come Dancing. I was particularly impressed with his Gangnam Style dance with his glamorous partner Katya Jones.

Could Strictly save Theresa May and Nick Timothy?

So could Theresa be thinking the same way?  Will she follow in the nimble footsteps of Ed Balls? Could Strictly Come Dancing be her saviour too? She is going to need some pretty nimble political footwork to get herself out of the mess she’s got herself and us into, so maybe she could imitate Ed and also be a great success in sequins on the dance floor?

And of course, now her equally useless advisor, Nick Timothy has lost his job, maybe he could also join Strictly Come Dancing?

Evidence mounts

There are various other pieces of evidence that she may be planning an eventual move into ballroom dancing.  Politically she has always been very good at dancing on the head of a pin and she has done some very nifty about-turns in her career as Home Secretary and latterly PM. Her love of shoes is legendary – apparently she wore 17 different pairs during the campaign, whilst dowdy Corbyn only wore one pair.  And Theresa May certainly likes her clothes – surely one of our most stylish PMs?

Vote – not ANOTHER election!

So, should Theresa meet Arlene Phillips and give Strictly a go? Yes or No (this question is NOT suitable for the politicians amongst you). See our Poll below…

James Stretten

Landlords and Letting

Affordable Landlord Insurances

[yop_poll id=”3″]

What sort of Brexit do YOU want?

 

So, what sort of Brexit do YOU want? Do you want a Hard Brexit? Do you want a Soft Brexit? What about a Soft and Cuddly Brexit, or perhaps a Thin and Crispy Brexit?

A Warm and Soothing Brexit

We now have a situation where even prominent politicians are talking non-stop nonsense about what sort of Brexit we should have.  Usually on the left they seem to be demanding a Warm and Soothing Brexit – rather like a nice cup of Horlicks that Jeremy Corbyn would have to help him wind down after a hard day’s politicking about how he intends to spend other people’s money.

Any Answers Bleaters

Certainly if you listen to irrepressibly middle class middle-Englanders on Radio 4’s Any Answers, most of them seem to be calling for a Kind and Soothing Brexit where a Lovely European Brexit Omelette gets made without cracking anybody’s free-range eggs.  Wouldn’t it be luverly?

Hard or Soft Brexit? – it’s all nonsense

On the right we often hear demands for a Hard Brexit or maybe even a Vindictive and Vicious one.  Or even a Sod Off Johnny Foreigner Brexit.

But it’s all puerile nonsense!  The reality is less exciting.

We are going into a NEGOTIATION.  And in a negotiation each side seeks to get the best deal they can wring out of the other side.  All I can say is that I’d love to sell my car to one of these people bleating about ‘Soft Brexit’.  They say that under no circumstances should we go into the negotiations saying things like ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. I know that’s a phrase made famous by that massive Looser May, but I still think it’s the right thing to SAY.

Selling a used car to the ‘Soft Brexiteers’

So I would advertise my car for way over its market value for say £14000.  These kinds of people would turn up, start kicking the tyres and, having told me ‘a bad deal IS better than no deal’, would offer me £10500.  I’d say NO, I want £14000.  They’d then perhaps offer £12900 and I’d still say NO, I want £14000.  And eventually I’d get £14000.

A great deal for me but a shitty one for them!

Landlords and Letting
Affordable Landlord Insurances

Will you be forced to repay rent to your tenants?

Yet more anti-landlord legislation starts to become operative this April (2017). This one is unimaginatively called The Housing & Planning Act 2016.

How does it affect landlords? Will YOU be forced to repay rent to your tenants?

If you are found guilty by a tribunal of any of the following offences you can be ordered to pay back up to 12 months’ rent…

  • Failing to comply with an Improvement Notice under section 30 of The Housing Act 2004.
  • Failing to comply with a Prohibition Order under section 32 of The Housing Act 2004.
  • Any breach of a banning order made under section 21 of the Housing & Planning Act 2016 (this act)
  • If you use violence to gain entry to a property under section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
  • If you illegally evict or harass the occupiers of a property under section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Making an example of transgressing landlords

The above applies whether you are receiving rent direct from a tenant or wholly or partly from the local authority. The act also states that tribunals need to take deterrence into account when fining landlords and urges making examples of transgressors to dissuade others.

Either your tenant(s) or the local authority can apply for Rent Repayment Orders.

These powers come into effect on 6th April 2017.

The main points of the new laws are…

• Civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for certain specified offences.
• Extension of rent repayment orders of up to 12 MONTHS’ rent, to cover illegal eviction, a breach of a banning order and certain other specified offences (coming into force on 6 April 2017);
• There’ll be a database of rogue landlords and property agents who have been convicted of certain offences or received multiple civil penalties (scheduled to come into force on 1 October 2017);
• Banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders (scheduled to come into force on 1 October 2017).

The full dreary details are here.

Landlords and Letting – Affordable Landlord Insurance

Landlord Taxes – Is this REALLY a Conservative Government?

Boy George and landlord taxes

When Boy George was Chancellor under the Cameron government, he introduced a whole new raft of landlord taxes aimed at ‘helping first-time buyers get on the property ladder’. But did he really want to help them? The PR theme was that demand from landlords was making it difficult for first-time-buyers to enter the property market. And as usual it had a nice ring to it.

However, I would assert, as I have before, that George was more interested in letting the City have a bigger piece of the Buy To Let Pie as the new rules did not hit large corporate bodies in the same way as small private landlords – Prudential has bought into it in a big way.

Mother Theresa dismisses Boy George

Then we all breathed a sigh of relief when Boy George was sent packing by Mother Theresa and welcomed the somewhat less boyish Phillip Hammond, assuming he would actually start acting like a Conservative chancellor. Well it seems we rejoiced too soon, because so far he still seems keen on more landlord taxes and is continuing with the policies of scrapping of tax relief for interest on buy-to let mortgages and the increased Stamp Duty for buy to let properties.

They now talk about ‘level playing fields’ – don’t politicians love metaphors? They say that mortgage tax relief for landlords gives them an unfair advantage over first-time buyers. They forget that the incredibly low interest rate environment and mass immigration has meant that buying to let is just about the only game in town that’s left for individual investors. Also, they forget that when you sell a buy-to-let property, unlike permanent private residence, you have top pay a shed-load, or rather a house-load of Capital Gains Tax. But then again, the MPs Expenses’ Scandal showed they knew only too well about the importance of flipping a property to avoid CGT.

No Opposition at All

The thing is that Mother Theresa and her chums are no longer faced with any opposition at all. Jeremy Corbyn has managed to effectively reduce Labour to a student debating society in which Diane Abbott seems to be an all purpose minister for just about anything and probably even handles any small plumbing emergencies at Labour HQ. By claiming he was present at many events he wasn’t and knew people he didn’t, Paul Nuttall managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for UKIP in the Stoke by-election. And the Liberal Democrats…well they’re still very Liberal and Democratic and that’s about it.

So, the Conservatives realise that Landlords represent a very small section of their natural constituency, have become folk villains, have nowhere else to turn and as such their wishes can be safely ignored.  They are now going for the ‘middle-ground’ to further increase their majority by tempting soft Labour voters away from Jeremy.

Residential Landlords Association

As I write this, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have mounted a last ditch attempt before The Budget to persuade Chancellor Phillip Hammond to scrap Boy George’s tax changes that stop landlords being able to offset mortgage interest against income from buy to let properties.

Let’s wish the RLA luck.

Landlords and Letting – Affordable Landlord Insurance