Letter to Mayor of London - Events in Haringey have broken the mold. Since 1979 London has been in grip of a housing market that knows all about price of land but nothing about value of communities

9 February 2018





Letter published by The Guardian on 6th February 2018

Since 1979 an ideological free market approach to land has been forcing the UK back to the middle ages.

It is an immense relief to read that the housing debate has at last embraced the free market in land that is at the root of so many of the UK’s troubles.  The Haringey housing battle was about the people’s opposition to the powerful state and a powerful private developer joining forces to remove the land from under the homes of council tenants. Since 1979 an ideological free market approach to land has been forcing the UK back to the middle ages.

In the history of the parish of Fingest, which I served, is the story of Henry Burgersh. He was the grandson of a baron who became bishop of Lincoln; he claimed authority over the abbot of St Albans Abbey. In March 1130 the abbot made over to the bishop the manor of Fingest (Buckinghamshire) in return for a renunciation of all episcopal rights over the monastery. The bishop promptly enclosed 300 acres of common land on which 60 families depended for survival; it is recorded that they starved. 

The modern version is in the unlimited, unearned, untaxed increase in the value of land grabbed for private gain to the detriment of the common good.

Rev Paul Nicolson, 

Taxpayers Against Poverty


Dear Mayor Khan, 

Events in Haringey have broken the mold. Since 1979 London has been in the grip of a housing market that knows all about the price of land but nothing about the value of communities.  

I attended one of the consultations about the London Plan at City Hall on Monday 5th February 2018. I came away concerned about the lack of analysis,  on which to ground your proposals, of the impact of the London Housing market on the health and well-being of residents. I am aware that current laws limit what you can do but suggest that is no reason to limit the proposals for a better London, for all Londoners, even though some proposals will need a change in National Policy.   
I live in Haringey a street's width from the Tottenham ward of Northumberland Park. The Church I attend is the parish church of that ward. I submit that any London plan which is inclusive, and faces up to widening inequalities of wealth and health, must start with wards like Northumberland Park. 
Haringey council's website will tell you "Northumberland Park is the most deprived ward in the borough and some areas are within the 5% most deprived within the country, that low birth-weight is between 10% and 12%, (which is at third world levels PN) , that life expectancy is seven years shorter than in Highgate wards in the west of the borough. A high proportion of residents are employed in low level jobs or are receiving benefits". Haringey Council will be ferociously enforcing council tax, which has been increased for social care, against shredded national benefits increases of which are frozen by the DWP for the seventh year running.  
TAP opposed the Haringey Development Vehicle because;
  • no assessment was made of the impact of the proposed demolition on the health of the council's tenants and leaseholders.
  • there were no proposals to lessen the incidence of low birth weight  or to increase life expectancy. 
  • the demolition of council estates cannot tackle deprivation. 
  • the lives and health of individuals and families resident in  Northumberland Park cannot be improved by forced relocation. 
  • the well-being of a valuable community was ignored. 
  • the flawed definition of "affordable" rents at 80% of the local market rent is a driver of food and fuel poverty
  • stagnant incomes and ever increasing rents, made worse by housing benefit cuts, make tenants and their families debt laden, hungry, homeless and ill
  • building mixed tenures on former council land reduce the number of much needed council or social housing
  • HDV damaged local businesses providing local employment
  • there was no borough wide consultation nor was the HDV in any manifesto at the last local elections   
TAP's opposition, like that of very many others in Haringey, had nothing whatever to do with the gender of the council leader or the politics of the Labour party. We saw what happened in Southwark and Hendon and set about working with others to stop it happen in Haringey. 
Sam Leggatt, a resident of the Northumberland Park and a member of their deputation, told Haringey Council on the 7th February. 
"When they look at our estate they see minus values, when we look at the same estate we see the huge value in the community, that the HDV plan intends to rip apart and throw away.  Developers see profit, we see the loss and devastation this will have caused in our community."
Communities in Haringey have broken the mold. Since 1979, when rents controls were abolished, lending deregulated and the government allowed the free flow of cash in and out of the UK, London has been in the grip of a housing market that knows all about the price of land but nothing about the value of communities and local small businesses.
Taxpayers Against Poverty recommends the following policies;
  • Stop national and international speculation in London Land
  • At least, tax unused land and empty properties severely,
  • At best, introduce land value tax/annual ground rent and abolish council tax, business rates and stamp duty.  (see below for second submission to the Mayor for details)
  • Link affordable rents to the London living wage and build to that specification,
  • Create specific polices for building council homes/social housing. Such as using all available public land for that purpose alone.  
  • Respect the current council tenants and communities and refurbish their homes.
  • Respect local employers by not forcing them to relocate.   
The wealth of London, like so much wealth in the UK, has been buried in its land rather than invested in the creation of jobs and homes. The wealth in land ought now to be fairly shared for the benefit of every Londoner. The late Professor Peter Ambrose wrote the 2005, "Z2K memorandum to the Prime Minister on Unaffordable Housing". It was sent to Tony Blair by the late Lord Alf Morris of Manchester. Ambrose wrote;

"We argue that there have been failures of vision, collective memory, strategy and regulation that have wasted many billions of taxpayers' money. The deregulation of financial markets in the 1980s sparked off a flood of house purchase lending that has underpinned massive house price rises and consumed £600 billion of investment that could have found a better use renewing our infrastructure or in research and development to make Britain more competitive in a global market rather than in bolstering house and land prices. The increasing commitment, from 23 to 72 of GDP since 1980, to house purchase loans seems unsustainable. Furthermore the increasing flow of demand side subsidies are working to enrich landlords and land vendors, not to stimulate more housing output. The analysis shows that more money has gone into housing but fewer houses have come out. Housing benefits and allowances have imposed a huge and increasing burden on state finances".

I am showing below a letter I sent to Emma Lewell-Buck MP after the second reading of her Food Security Bill was delayed until October. It contains some more of the analysis I suggest must inform the London Plan.

With best wishes,
Paul Nicolson
Rev Paul Nicolson, 
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Here are the links to the resources used by TAP.  This is the link to each of the 7 chapters of DEBT, DEATH & DEADWEIGHT. It is edited by Fred Harrison, Director of the Land Research Trust and my colleague at Taxpayers Against Poverty. And here a series of 9 guest blogs on the our website  about Health Equality and another of 10 guest blogs about Affordable Housing. I draw perticular attention to the blog by Alison Gelder until recently director of Housing Justice. An affordable housing agenda for the Churches. We have collective responsibility as society to provide all with homes that truly meet their needs. PN


         Letter TAP sent to Emma Lewell-Buck MP after the second reading of her Food Security Bill was delayed until October.

The fact that many of the poorest individuals and families in the UK are hungry now renders reprehensible the delay of the second reading of the Food Security Bill from the 2nd February to October 2018. There are several ways in which the state either stops or reduces the incomes of the poorest UK citizens needed for food, fuel, clothes and other necessaries.
​Most of the reasons for UK food poverty are to be found in the housing crisis. ​Since 1979 Britain has been in the grip of an ideological free market approach to land. Unlimited, unearned and untaxed increases in the value of land have been grabbed for private gain by wealthy people and institutions to the detriment of the common good. Stagnant incomes and ever increasing rents, made worse by housing benefit cuts, make tenants and their families debt laden, hungry, homeless and ill.  
For the UK’s 7m tenants, the housing crisis is worsening. They possess no equity to fall back on. There is no escape from council tax, income tax or VAT. Since April 2013 council tax has been charged at 8.5% to 30% against working age state benefit incomes by 289 councils out of 326 in England. Councils add court costs and bailiffs fees to the arrears which cannot be paid out of a single adult unemployment benefit of £73.10 a week. Rent is also paid out of that £73.10 with the bedroom tax, the housing benefit and the local housing allowance.  £73.10 JSA a week is equal to £317 Universal Credit. JSA & UC are the cornerstone of the benefits system paid to 3.9m people; all other benefits are added to it. It is are well below a minimum derived from the Joseph Rowntree minimum income standards for food, fuel, clothes, transport for a single adult of £91.80 per week (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2017).
£73.10 has been losing value since 1979 and increases have been frozen since 2011.  Before April 2013 it was supported by 100% housing and council tax benefits. 
​If benefit claimants cannot pay the rent ​​they are threatened with eviction, or fall behind with the council tax ​they are threatened with prison;  so adults cut down on food to feed their children. There are no legal penalties for hunger. ​The income needed for food is also stopped completely for weeks or months by the benefit sanctions, zero hours contracts and the universal credit​.
I work with and for tenants living in a Tottenham ward, which is​ among 5% of the most deprived wards in the UK. Tenants die on average seven years younger than the residents of Highgate. Low birthweight at 10% -12% is at third world levels. According to the researches of Professor Micheal Crawford low birthweight has a primary cause in poor maternal and fetal nutrition.  Fetal growth restriction is the strongest predictor of poor learning ability, school performance, behavioral disorders and crime. The ONS has reported an unprecedented rise in deaths of the infants of poor mothers in the UK in 2015.  
​The provision of food banks is an irresistible demand on the good will of generous people but the structural changes needed to the state, in the housing market and the provision of minimum incomes for healthy living, will require the exertion of all the moral authority with which the Christian faith, and other great faiths, are so powerfully endowed. ​
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty


#wealth of #London, like so much wealth in UK, has been buried in its land rather than invested in the creation of jobs and homes. At least £600bn buried in UK land since 1980s. The wealth in #London #Land ought now to be fairly shared for benefit of every #Londoner  


No citizen without an affordable home and an

adequate income in work or unemployment. 




from the Rev Paul Nicolson