LETTERS IN THE CHURCH TIMES, THE GUARDIAN AND THE INDEPENDENT AND SANDI TOVSVIG IN DOCUMENTARY FROM ZACCHAEUS 2000 TRUST -
LETTERS IN THE CHURCH TIMES, THE GUARDIAN AND THE INDEPENDENT AND
SANDI TOVSVIG IN DOCUMENTARY FROM ZACCHAEUS 2000 TRUST - "FORCED OUT"
LETTER IN THE CHURCH TIMES 12/10/13
PREPARE FOR A VERY TOUGH WINTER FOR THE POOR
From The Rev Paul Nicolson
Sir, - Now is the time for the Churches to prepare for the worst Christmas the poorest citizens of the UK will have experienced since before the Beveridge report (in 1943) . Food banks and Crisis at Christmas will be stretched beyond their capacity to relieve poverty. After Christmas, the advice sector will not be able to keep up with demand, as the caps, cuts, and council tax create more and more unmanageable debt. Isolation, hunger, and cold weather will take their toll.
Beveridge wrote about social security: it "must be achieved by co-operation between the State and the individual"; the state would secure the service and contributions. The state "should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family."
Welfare reform is destroying the "national minimum", which had been reducing in value for decades: £71.70 a week is the single adult unemployment benefit after rent and council tax, but it is now expected to pay the rent left unpaid by the capped housing benefit, and the 8.5 per cent to 30 per cent of the council tax, depending on the local authority.
Council-tax arrears are enforced by the local authority by applying to the magistrates for a liability order, adding £50 to £125 to the arrears; thousands are being issued every week, rising to over three million a year. Then the bailiffs are sent in, adding several hundred pounds more. The single adults with too many bedrooms cannot move, because there are too few single-bedroom properties, and some of them are housing overcrowded families. Because the value of the national minimum is now ignored by the Government, rent and council tax are being paid by the children's benefits.
The welfare policies are both immoral, in that they make people hungry, cold, and homeless, and uneconomic, in that they create mental and physical illness, and educational under-achievement, which increases the costs to the NHS, the schools, and the wider economy. It is a dreadful waste of talent.
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF
LETTER IN THE GUARDIAN 12/10/13
ROOTS OF UK's CHAOTIC HOUSING MARKET
The shallow root of Britain's chaotic housing market can be traced back to the 1979 government deregulating lending, abolishing rent controls and allowing the free flow of money in and out of the UK. The 1997 government let it rip until the banks collapsed in 2008. Meanwhile, the late Professor Peter Ambrose had reported in the Z2K memorandum to the prime minister on unaffordable housing in 2005 that "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 £600bn 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".
Now the IMF urges George Osborne to invest in infrastructure, but he prefers to continue with political bribery, which favours owners and landlords with tax-free capital gains, with money saved from low-income renters by capping housing benefit.
Dr Stephen Battersby Pro-Housing Alliance, Peter Archer Care and Repair England, Stephen Hill C2O futureplanners, Joanna Kennedy Zacchaeus 2000, Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty
TWO LETTERS IN THE INDEPENDENT 30/09/13
LAND SEIZURES FROM HENRY VIII TO ED MILLIBAND
The rule of law, cited by James Paton (Letters, 27 September), exists to uphold the interests of the community at large, not just segments of it, such as property developers.
Indeed, Ed Miliband’s “use it or lose it” plan for developers’ land banks is not without precedent in England. In the 1540s, when most people rented their homes, difficulties were being caused by owners who had let their properties fall into decay or ruin. The outcome was a series of urban regeneration acts. One such, passed in 1540 under Henry VIII, was an “Act for re-edifying of decayed Houses in sundry Towns, and Places of the Realm”. The measures it laid out were radical. Head-lessees, and then owners, were required to repair or rebuild the properties concerned. If neither did, then after five years they would forfeit their leasehold or freehold interests to the local authority concerned.
The measures worked – not surprisingly, in view of their stringency. To them we probably owe some of the fine 16th-century houses which are now so much admired.
Arthur Percival, Faversham, Kent
The compulsory purchase of land banks proposed by Ed Miliband puts Labour’s housing policy in line with the supporters of land value tax (LVT). We believe that the present taxation system is flawed and unfair. When the value of UK land increases due to increased demand, the owners, including UK and international speculators, have done nothing to increase their personal wealth.
Renters gain nothing while their rents increase. The issue is how to make some of the increase in land value available to all. LVT taxes some of that increase in land value.
It should result in the abolition of the regressive council tax and business rates. It should cover all land, used and unused, so bringing land banks and empty homes into use, making investors look for income from renting, building and creating jobs to cover the tax. HMRC would spend less chasing tax-free money parked in overseas accounts; banks have yet to find a way of moving land into their vaults.
John Lipetz Coalition for Economic Justice Richard Murphy Tax Research UK Dr Stephen Battersby Pro-Housing Alliance Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty, London N17