TAP’s aim for the new Parliament; to prevent undeniable damage done to health by low incomes & debt in UK

7 June 2017

Our aim is to prevent the undeniable damage to mental and physical health caused by low incomes, debt and arrears after high housing costs in the UK. 

 INCOMES

  1. A living unemployment benefit/Universal Credit;
  2. Abolish the benefit sanction but keep conditionality administered by the Magistrates Court not the Jobcentres, in a way similar to the council tax and TV  license fines. Magistrates, given the evidence of vulnerability, leave enough minimum income for people to buy the minimum of food, fuel, clothes, transport.
  3. Support the real living wage announced by the Living Wage Foundation.

A living unemployment benefit/Universal Credit. 

The unemployment income of a single adult is JSA at £73.10 a week ( x 52/12 = £317 a month Universal Credit) has been losing value since 1979 and is now well below the income needed for healthy living. The damage done to health by low incomes is described by Dr Angela Donkin of the Institute of Health Equity in three blogs on the TAP website and by inequality in another three by Professors Kate Pickett and Richards Wilkinson. The Impact of Food Banks is described Maddy Power of the University of York and to mental health by Dr Carl Walker of the University of Brighton.  
 

​The case in a nutshell is described in this letter to The Guardian by Professor ​Jonathan Bradshaw published by The Guardian on the 15th May 2009. In 2010 increases were frozen at 1%, but no increase at all​ since 2015.  Further evidence is available in this article in the Huffington Post. 

​BENEFIT NEGLIGENCE

The inadequacy of the £64.30 weekly jobseeker's allowance ​(now £73.10​pw  JSA or £317 pm UC) (£50.95 for the under-25s ​ now £57.90 pw) ​ noted by Paul Nicolson (Letters, 11 May) is a modern phenomenon. When unemployment benefit started in 1912 it was 7 shillings a week - about 22% of average male earnings in manufacturing. The percentage fluctuated over the succeeding decades, but by 1979 the benefit rate was still about 21% of average earnings (manual and non-manual, male and female). By 2008, however, as a result of the policy of tying benefits to the price index while real earnings increased, the renamed jobseeker's allowance had fallen to an all-time low of 10.5% of average earnings. And while, in the past, means-tested allowances raised unemployed income to a higher minimum level, the jobseeker's allowance rates are now the same, whether means-tested or not. Of course, average earnings have grown but so has the relative deprivation of the unemployed. This is not a policy justified by the need to maintain work incentives. It is just a dreadful record of neglect by governments since 1979.

Jonathan Bradshaw
University of York
Tony Lynes
London

 

HOUSING

  1. Annual ground rent on all land (otherwise known as the Land Value Tax) and the abolition of council tax, business rates and stamp duty. 
  2. Introduce a definition of affordable rents at 33% of the living wage. 
  3. Re-introduce rent controls.
  4. All viability assessments involving the building of affordable housing to be made public. 

The case for annual ground rent (Land Value Tax) has been made by Fred Harrison and Stephen Hill on the TAP website. Land Value Tax is in effect rent, at a small percentage of the value of all land,  paid by all land owners to Metropolitan and Local Government

TAP highlights five advantages; 

  1. Land cannot be placed in an overseas tax free bank. 
  2. Taxing land forces the 600,000 plots of unused land in the land banks the big builders, and other unused land into use. 
  3. It is a progressive and therefore a just tax. 
  4. It relieves the incomes of hardworking people and companies of taxation.  
  5. It enables the abolition of inefficient taxes such as council tax, business rates and stamp duty. 

It will need an Annual Ground Rent Bill which should follow the Danish model and enable the Metropolitan Mayors to introduce the ground rent and abolish inefficient taxes.  

The following is from a House of Commons Library briefing on Land Value tax.

"Since 1924 Denmark has levied a land value tax based on the market price of land, revalued every two years. Land tax is payable to the local authority and county based on a per thousandth share of the value of the land. Local councils set the amount for their area, varying the per thousandth share according to different types of land use. This is subject to a minimum of six and a maximum of 24 thousandths of the value of the land, giving an effective tax rate of 0.6 - 2.4 per cent of the land’s estimated market value. Such a tax raises the cost of holding developable land when demand, as expressed through rising market prices, increases. This should, absent other factors, make holding valuable land more expensive as development pressure increases, encouraging land release for development." See also Harrisberg Pensylvania website on Land Value Tax. 

Re-introduce rent controls

The case for rent controls has been made by Prof Danny Dorling on the TAP website "In 1988 housing rent controls abolished. In 2016 inequalities & poverty get bigger & bigger". 
Since the Thatcher government land owners and landords have dominated the housing market profiting from rents, housing benefit and the vast increase in the value of their land. There has been no defence of tenants and tax payers from their exploitation of that scarce resource.  

Introduce a definition of affordable housing at 33% of the living wage. 

The DWP definition of affordable housing is; 

"Affordable rented housing is let by local authorities or private registered providers of social housing to households who are eligible for social rented housing. Affordable Rent is subject to rent controls that require a rent of no more than 80 per cent of the local market rent (including service charges, where applicable). This is worse than useless ​as a definition of affordable rents because they rise with the markets whatever happens to the national minimum wage. Historically rents have taken more and more of the lowest incomes needed for food, fuel and other necessities, which leads to food banks, mental and physical ill health.

Re-introduce rent controls.

The case for rent controls has been made by Prof Danny Dorling on the TAP website "In 1988 housing rent controls abolished. In 2016 inequalities & poverty get bigger & bigger". Since the Thatcher government land owners and landords have dominated the housing market profiting from rents, housing benefit and the vast increase in the value of their land. There has been no defence of tenants and tax payers from their exploitation of that scarce resource.  

Abolish the benefit sanction but keep conditionality administered by the Magistrates Court not the Jobcentres, in a way similar to the council tax and TV  license fines

​The politics of "the moral hazard", that people might not seek work when claiming unempoyment beneits, seems to require some kind of benefot conditionality. The administration of the extreme punishments of stopping income by the administrative fiat of a jobcentre official for one month, three months or three years ought never to have entered British law.. It must be abolished The Labour Party manifesto abolishes that benefit sanction. But the quid pro quo for the taxpayers' provision of a living unemployment benefit (see above) should be a judicially administered conditionality. ​
 
​The courts administer proportional fines when the evidence of poverty is proved under the Wednesbury Principles of reasonableness and leave enough to buy essentials like food, unlike the jobcentres. ​The cpourts given the evodince leave enough income after a fine to enable the offender to eat; jobcemters do not. . 

All viability assessments involving the building of affordable housing to be made public.

Land owners, builders and chartered surveyors have for decades fixed the viability assessments of new builds to maximise the profits of the land owners and the builders by reducing the number of affordable homes they build. There is an excellent brief from Stephen Hill MRICS on the TAP website. 

 

OTHER ISSUES

  1. Local authority auditors accountable to borough residents.
  2. Restoration of legal aid whenever there is a reasonable chance of success
  3. Abolish the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning , and Trades Union Administration Act 2014

Local Authority Auditors to be accountable to the residents of their borough not to the local authorities. 

My attempts to ensure Grant Thornton were required to report to the residents of the London Borough of Haringey when they discovered that council had overcharged for council tax enforcement costs since 2010 & since 2013 were rejected by the auditors, the high court , the appeal court and, so far,  the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICEAW), whose Their Royal Charter was granted in the public interest.

The law does not require the auditors of local authority accounts to be accountable to the residents. The auditors of private companies are accountable to the shareholders. So should the auditors of the local authorities be accountable to the residents. They should report publicly on any changes they have required or advised local authorities to undertake. 

The International Federation of Accountants (ICFA) has stated. "A hallmark of the accountancy profession is its obligation to act in the public interest. But it is not always apparent what this means". 

The ICEAW defines the public interest as a problem in terms of defending the business (or local authority) rather than defending the public.

"The public interest is an abstract notion. Advocating something as being in the public interest involves setting oneself up in judgement as to whether an action or requirement to change behavior will benefit the public overall – a far greater set of people than can be interacted with directly. It involves interference in people’s ability to go about their business, or sometimes, as a positive policy decision, non-interference in the face of alternative actions.
Accountants and their professional organisations obscure the issue of public interest to protect the accountants not the public to whom they are accountable. The laws should say so in the case of local authorities. 

The restoration of legal aid whenever there is a reasonable chance of success.  

​The emphasis of government since 2010 on cutting civil legal aid has cut the ability of the poorest citizens to call on the judiciary to challenge the abuses of power by the executive and the private companies they employ to do their hatchet jobs​.

Abolish the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning , and Trades Union Administration Act 2014

To enable civil society organisations to act according to their individual and collective conscience and support political parties during an election and at any other time. 

Nine blogs on health equality 

Dr Angela Donkin Institute of Health Equity, Profs Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson Equality Trust, Maddy Power University of York, Carl Walker University of Brighton 


Ten blogs on affordable housing by 

Stephen Hill MRICS Churchill Fellow, Prof Danny Dorling University of Oxford, Fred Harrison Land Research Trust, Alison Gelder Housing Justice. 

 

TAP/APPG on poverty Health Equality Seminar - Register

6-8 PM THURSDAY 20TH JULY PORTCULLIS HOUSE, WESTMINSTER  SW1A 2JR. 

Chair: Baroness Molly Meacher, Crossbench

Speakers.  

David Finch - Resolution Foundation,

Dr Angela Donkin – Institute of Health Equity

Professor Richard Wilkinson –  Equality Trust

Professor Kate Pickett –, Equality Trust

Maddy Power –  University of York

Carl Walker –  University of Brighton

Rev Paul Nicolson –  Taxpayers Against Poverty

Please arrive at Portcullis House by 17.45 in order to pass through the airport-style security checks. You may be asked for ID. Information about visiting Parliament can be found here. 

 


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