Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Readers' Letters Of The Day

Both from The Guardian:

• The latest Labour pledge to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers is not the policy it should adopt to help people to buy or rent their homes.

This latest subsidy proposal will push up house prices. History shows that all government subsidies ultimately capitalise into land value and go into the pockets of landowners. Enterprise zones, common agricultural policy payments, rate-free periods for new businesses, housing benefit payments for private tenants, wind farm subsidies – all have ended up as unintended subsidies for landowners paid for by all of us as taxpayers, with the poorest of people subsidising the richest.

It is shameful that politicians and their economic advisers do not understand how land wealth arises and how a shift in taxes off earned incomes on to land value and other natural resource wealth will not only right the historic wrong of our land being held by a minority but will return land wealth to the public purse to use to maintain and develop our public services.

Land value is not created from owning land. It is created from our public and private investments that benefit all residents and businesses in the immediate and wider areas and thus raise the rent and price of land which private landowners collect as an unearned income. Land speculation and monopoly land ownership is actually what makes homes unaffordable to rent or to buy.

Heather Wetzel, London.

Contrary to your leader (Editorial, 28 April), we do not have a choice about our corrupt housing system, which degrades the whole economy by not allowing people to move where there’s work; or leave them enough to spend in the shops after the rent or mortgage has been paid. All the major parties subscribe to home ownerism, the name given by radical land taxers to the policy of deliberately encouraging house price inflation to secure elections by bribing homeowners with unearned capital gains in house prices (while wages can go hang).

There has already been something of a riot about house price inflation in Brixton. Only a return to an era like the 1950s to 1970s when the house price graph was flat in the UK can defuse a potentially revolutionary conflict between the interests of the housing haves and have nots.

As the cause of the evil of house-price inflation (so much worse than wage inflation) is land price inflation, it is merely a matter of introducing the age-old land value tax to keep land prices and house prices flat forever.

DBC Reed, Northampton.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Cars "Threaten horse-riding skills"

From the BBC

Horse-riding skills are under threat because of a growing reliance on cars, experts say.

The Royal Institute of Horse Riding (RIHR) said increasing dependence on technology means people are losing the ability to get around on a horse. The RIHR wants schools to encourage the teaching of basic horse-riding because few pupils can ride one. Its president, Roger McKinlay, said society is "sedated by steering wheels".

Mr McKinlay added: "It is concerning that young people are no longer routinely learning at home or school how to do anything more than press an accelerator pedal to get anywhere.

"Many cannot put on a saddle, canter, gallop or get to their destination with just a horse, let alone wonder at the amazing role straw plays in looking after horses.

"Instead, generations are now growing up utterly dependent on the internal combustion engine and petrolget around. The RIHR believes that horse-rising can develop character, independence and an appreciation of biology and shovelling shit.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Oxford University's Department of Economics concurs.

Emailed in by TBH, from page 29 of this:

If one is interested in the spread of owner-occupation per se, it is necessary to consider not only the two million plus houses built in the interwar period for owner-occupation, but also the large number of houses – estimated to be in excess of one million – transferred out of the privately-rented sector by sale to owner-occupiers.

In a large proportion of these cases, landlords sold their properties in response to the low returns imposed on them by the rent restriction legislation. (Conversely, they were concentrated in the 1920s.) In many cases they could only realise low prices for their properties, and they often sold to the sitting tenants.

Although there is little information on these sales – Merrett refers to them as the ‘hidden history’ of the interwar period – it is likely that many of them involved working-class households. In other words, many more working-class households became owner-occupiers in the interwar period than Swenarton and Taylor allow, not only because they bought many of the new houses built during the 1930s, but also because they also bought a significant number of pre-war houses, particularly during the 1920s.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Reader's Letter Of The Day

From The Evening Standard, page 57:

The arguments against rent caps ignore all the hard evidence.

For most of the twentieth century, the UK had quite strict rent controls and better tenant protection. Yes, the result was that rented accommodation was of lower quality - but landlords were no longer outbidding owner-occupiers, keeping a lid on house price inflation.

[This para was edited out: As a result, the number of households renting from private landlords fell from 90 per cent to 10 per cent between 1900 and 1990; and the number of owner-occupier households went up from 10 per cent to 70 per cent. Social housing took up the slack.]

The most worrying statistic is that among the under-35's, owner-occupation levels have fallen from two-thirds to one-third over the past ten years. So reintroducing strict rent caps is a core part of YPP's housing and economic policies.

It is not just about protecting tenants - to borrow some Tory slogans, it is about putting money back into people's pockets and having a property owning democracy.

Mark Wadsworth, Young People's Party PPC for Epping Forest.

In response to the comments, replacing taxes on income with taxes on land is a much better way of doing everything and would sort out most so-called economic problems, but on the narrow issue of high rents/house prices and wealth inequality, a combination of mortgage restrictions and rent caps are a reasonably good second-best way of doing things - they largely solve these narrow issues (but not much else).

Life copies satire

The Daily Mash, 21 November 2014:

TACTICAL voters no longer have any idea who they are meant to be voting for or who they are trying to keep out, they have admitted...

Political blogger Susan Traherne said: “UKIP’s growing power, the Greens overtaking the Lib Dems and the willingness of every party to go into coalition with every other means tactical voting is over.

“Voters are now advised simply to cast their vote for the party they would most like to see actually running the county. Which admittedly doesn’t make the choice any easier.”

The Daily Mail, 30 April 2015:

Baffled voters are switching between all of the main parties or giving up on the election altogether, pollsters have warned...

Gideon Skinner, from IpsosMori, said: "Swing is a very useful concept, but never forget that it is now a misleadingly simple name for a very complex business. Most of the shift in votes these days is unlikely to involve many people who voted Conservative five years ago now having decided to vote Labour instead.

‘Today, most of the movement is between the two big parties and the smaller parties, of 2010 voters thinking they will not turn out this time (or vice versa), or people moving between the smaller parties. Rather than thinking of a swing, it is probably more useful to picture a roundabout - or as an overlapping flow of voters between multiple parties, as we show here."

It was the Sun what won it!..... by backing both sides

Fantastic double think from the Sun.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Labour-Conservative 'grand coalition' negotiations progressing smoothly.

From The Daily Mail:

David Cameron today announces a Tory promise not to increase VAT, income tax or national insurance over the next five years.

The Prime Minister says the tax-free personal allowance should rise to £12,500 by 2020 while the 40p tax threshold will increase to £50,000. The Conservatives have repeatedly accused Labour of leaving the door open to freezing or lowering the 40p threshold, trapping millions more into paying the tax rate created to hit the rich.

Today Mr Balls insisted he would ensure the threshold rose at least in line with inflation every year and 'would like to go further'.

Simon Jenkins on top form

From the Evening Standard:

I visited Brixton as a young reporter, to witness old residents fighting landlords who were winkling them out in order to turn their terraces over to West Indian multi-occupation. Resistance was so fierce that in the early Seventies Lambeth council went Tory. A local councillor by the name of John Major became housing chairman. Such was the turmoil that by the Eighties Brixton had become synonymous with riots.

The urban wheel keeps turning. Brixton is no different from Islington, North Kensington, Camden or Stoke Newington. Yesterday’s migrant is today’s gentrifier. Inner London has always been a place of change and renewal. When its economy lags, housing tenure tends to stabilise. When the economy booms, “gentrification” sweeps across the city like a hurricane…

Yet it is hard to see what anti-gentrification protesters hope to achieve. Subsidising housing for the genuinely poor is sound welfare. But the idea of “local people” as such being entitled to housing security [in one area] for life was a socialist whitewashing of anti-immigrant prejudice. Romantics may proclaim the need for rural villages to keep out “foreigners” but in a city this makes no sense. It is London’s role as a national melting pot.


There's a lot of talk about apprenticeships out there. They're the sort of thing that sound like a great idea. You know, the sort of thing where a young lad or lass come in, maybe not brilliant at school, but keen, hard-working, practical. Join a company and get a trade.

So, I thought I'd take a look at some of the apprenticeships out there by typing in a postcode in Northamptonshire into the Apprenticeships website and seeing what came up.

So, here's the first 2 pages I got:-

Apprentice Nursery Assistant required to work in an Ofsted grade 1 (outstanding) day nursery in Hunsbury, Northampton. 
Main Duties: 
• Caring for children. Ensuring that children are safe and relating well to each other. 
• Being creative and helping to plan activities for the children. 
• Enabling play and participating in play. 

No, that's a job. You hire someone who is good with kids, spend a little time sorting out activities.

Apprentice Teaching Assistant

That's a government job.

Apprentice Mechanical Engineer (Fork Lift Truck Maintenance)

That's an apprenticeship - lots of training needed. Good.

Apprentice Barber

That's "trainee hairdresser", something we've always had jobs in. The job even prefers standard hairdressing qualifications.

Apprentice Nursery Assistant

No, job.

Apprentice Office Administrator

With duties like "Organising and Management of various production paperwork forms for the running of day to day business" that's just an office junior job. Nothing in the job suggesting something more skilled other than that.

Apprentice Machinist Engineer

Some machining, learning some welding. That's an apprenticeship. Good.

Childminding Apprenticeship

Again. Job.

Apprentice Pizza Chef

At Pizza Hut. You're going to be putting toppings on some shipped-in pizza dough. Something a child can do in 30 minutes.

Business Administration Apprentice

"Generally assisting the MD" "filing scanning and photocopying". That's another "office junior".

It's really dispiriting. These are nearly all low-paid jobs, and jobs that require little training investment, which was always the problem - employers wouldn't train people because they could leave and go elsewhere. And a grant of £1500 isn't going to incentivise more advanced apprenticeships. It's just another jobs scheme where you get some money and the government picks up some low-grade training.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Moneyweek on top form

John Stepek nails it here, summing up Labour's latest bright idea, rent controls, and the government's (of whatever hue) attitude to house (land) prices generally:

But while it might be economic stupidity, it’s pretty smart politics – which sadly sums up the general tone of this election campaign nicely.

We all know that housing – specifically, house prices – is one of the most important issues to the British electorate. That’s why politicians like to make sure that they keep on rising.

If your average British homeowner sees that the price of their property is going up, then all must be well with the economy, and therefore they should vote for whoever is in power. That’s the simplistic – but I suspect, highly accurate – political calculus involved.

But there’s a twist this time around. Prices have been going up for so long that an ever-increasing group of people is feeling somewhat disenfranchised. In 2005, 70% of people owned their own homes. This year it’s down to less than 65%.

Those left at the foot of the ladder still aspire to own property. They still dream of the day when they too will benefit from an unearned, tax-free windfall resulting from a leveraged bet on house prices, as is every hardworking British family’s birthright.

Trouble is, they can’t see how they’ll ever get on to that ladder. And it’s clear that their parents are worried too. Apparently, 80% of the public believes Britain faces a housing crisis, says Mori.