“Revealed: UK ‘is in the throes of a housing crisis’ “

“Observer survey finds 71% couldn’t buy without family help, and 37% say home ownership is out of reach for good:

David Cameron’s pledge to build a property-owning democracy is called into serious question by a landmark survey revealing that almost four in 10 of those who do not own a home believe they will never be able to do so.

According to an exclusive poll for the Observer on attitudes to British housing, 69% of people think the country is “in the throes of a housing crisis”. A staggering 71% of aspiring property owners doubt their ability to buy a home without financial help from family members.

More than two-thirds (67%) would like to buy their own home “one day”, while 37% believe buying will remain out of their reach for good. A further 26% think it will take them up to five years.

With affordable homes in short supply and demand for social housing rising, more than half of Britons cite immigration and a glut of foreign investment in UK property as factors driving prices beyond reach.

The findings cast doubt on the prime minister’s claim before last year’s general election that Tory housing policies would transform “generation rent” into “generation buy”. In April last year, as he launched plans to force local authorities to sell valuable properties to fund new “affordable homes”, Cameron said: “The dream of a property-owning democracy is alive and well and we will help you fulfil it.”

The poll – which found that 58% of people want more, not less, social housing as a way to ease the crisis – comes as the government’s highly controversial housing and planning bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday.

The bill will force councils to sell much of their social housing and curb lifelong council tenancies, introducing “pay to stay” rules that will force better-off council tenants to pay rents closer to market levels. Described by housing experts as the beginning of the end of social housing, the bill has been savaged by cross-party groups in the Lords. They have inflicted a string of defeats on ministers and forced numerous concessions.

The government’s flagship plan for “starter homes” has also been widely attacked on the grounds that the properties – which in London will cost up to £450,000 – will not be affordable.

With local elections and the London mayoral election on Thursday, ministers now face the dilemma of whether to back down and accept many of the Lords’ amendments to the bill or face legislative deadlock.

On Saturday night Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is putting plans for more affordable housing at the heart of his campaign, described the bill as “the most extreme in terms of housing in a generation”.

The party’s housing spokesman, John Healey, said: “Opposition to this bill now comes from across the board: from housebuilders, housing experts, charities and even Conservative ministers’ own council leaders, MPs and peers. It seems that government ministers are alone in thinking their bill is fit for purpose when it comes to tackling our housing crisis.

“Despite the string of concessions the government was forced to make, this remains an extraordinary and extreme bill that will lead to a huge loss of affordable homes to rent and buy. Ministers need to listen to the opposition coming from all sides and back down on their damaging housing plans.”

Khan’s rival, Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, has pledged to build 50,000 homes a year by 2020 and to ensure that a significant proportion of new homes will be available only for rent.

The research by Opinium was conducted only five days after the Panama Papers revealed how a substantial portion of London’s most expensive properties are now owned by foreigners via offshore companies.

When asked what measures they would like to see implemented to restrict foreign ownership of British properties, 71% backed a ban on foreign owners buying British properties as investments or as buy-to-let; 60% backed higher taxes for foreign buyers involved in buy-to-let schemes.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the government had unveiled the “most ambition vision for housing in a generation”, doubling the housing budget and investing £8bn to deliver more than 400,000 affordable homes.

“There are billions of pounds locked up in local authority housing assets so it is only right that when higher value homes become vacant they are sold to build new homes that better meet local needs,” the spokesman said. “It means every home sold will be replaced with at least one new affordable home and two for one in London.”

http://gu.com/p/4tnx2

Osborne promises Business Rate cuts for local newspapers but …

“…. Just five companies control some 70% of regional daily newspaper circulation.

Out of 406 Local Government Areas, 100 (25%) have no daily local newspaper at all while in 143 LGAs (35% of the total) a single title has a 100% monopoly.”

http://www.mediareform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/ElephantintheroomFinalfinal.pdf

Our View from … titles are truly independent but Archant Press (Herald titles) which gets a whopping 80% of EDDC’s £400,000 p a advertising budget has been under investigation by HRMC for £6m in unpaid tax:

The company’s chairman, Simon Bax, revealed the inquiry into potential tax avoidance by Archant in a letter to shareholders. It centres on a “legal reorganisation” carried out by the Norwich-based group in 2011 when some 40 trading companies were reduced to three.

Bax wrote: “In the event that HMRC were to prove that the company had a tax avoidance motive in putting this structure in place… there could be adverse cash outflow of up to £6m. …

… Archant has been locked into a dispute with HMRC since December 2012 over unpaid taxes, which led the company to suspend its dividend payments.

But the tax headache was only one of the “critical matters” in the 2014 company accounts mentioned by Bax in his letter dated 18 March.

He also referred to “a large adverse tax movement of £24m in the company’s pension scheme deficit” due to “volatility” in the gilts market.

It means that Archant’s net assets have been reduced to levels that could lead, according to Bax’s letter, to a revision of the company’s credit rating.

Furthermore, it could lead to the company being required to pay additional pension protection fund (PPF) fees. It is already slated to pay a £700,000 increase in the levy and Bax revealed that the company has instituted a review of its pension strategy. … ”.
http://gu.com/p/47v3v

Oh, and those same newspapers have asked the government to get the BBC to pay £14 m for 364 extra regional journalists because they say the BBC has an unfair advantage in local newx and should be made to pay for the “democratic deficit” they say that engenders.

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/local-newspaper-publishers-want-%C2%A314m-bbc-help-plug-gap-council-and-court-reporting

The person charged with this decision is John Whittingdale:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/john-whittingdale-faces-fresh-questions-7826908

Not the First Time Whittingdale Has Enjoyed the “Perks of the Job” a Little Too Much!

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/culture-secretary-john-whittingdale-accused-of-political-interference-in-national-portrait-gallery-a6998946.html

Doesn’t look quite like the “preserve the freedom of the press” policy it started off as, does it?

Buying off criticism and oiling wheels, perhaps?

Thank your lucky stars for rebellious bloggers who wear their political hearts on their sleeves and answer only to their consciences …

First East Devon Alliance conference

The Who Cares What You Think? conference at EDDC HQ , Knowle, last Saturday (23 April marked a turning point for the new political group of Independents, established in March 2015, just one year ago.

They have now joined forces with colleagues from across the South West.

Background

The East Devon Alliance of Independents (IEDA) have been hard at work since winning remarkable support in the May 2015 elections, which saw the number of Independent East Devon District Councillors increase five-fold, to 15.

Since then, two major IEDA reports have been accepted by Parliament:

House of Lords Select Committee on the economics of housing in the UK and

National Audit Office (Local Enterprise Partnerships)

The latter report, on LEPs, has just been sent to a higher level, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), at the suggestion of the National Audit Office (NAO).

Making a difference

Meanwhile, the new IEDA Councillors have brought positive change:

– raising the level of debate
– producing well-researched reports so that decisions can be based on evidence rather than party allegiance
– introducing proper scrutiny.

Full report on the Who Cares What You Think? conference coming soon.

Hinkley C: the most expensive thing in the world

“Hinkley is set to be the most expensive object on Earth… best guesses say Hinkley could pass £24bn ($35bn),” said the environmental charity Greenpeace last month as it launched a petition against the project.

This figure includes an estimate for paying interest on borrowed money, but the financing arrangements for Hinkley C are so opaque that it is impossible to calculate exactly what the final cost will be.

Even if you stick with the expense of construction alone, though, the price is still high – the main contractor, EDF, puts it at £18bn ($26bn).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36160368

Real localism … a pipe dream

“Morgan [Education Secretary] is presiding over the greatest centralisation in the history of British education – at least since the Forster Act of 1872 and its notorious and short-lived “revised code”. Her proposed employment of academy chains to replace local education authorities is only a bastard privatisation.

It is so risky – like giving the NHS to Tesco or the Royal Navy to a cross-Channel ferry company – that it will need armies of commissioners to run it. They must find money, plan capacity, reorder admissions and extract measurable results to validate the reform. Already there are rumours that Morgan may reduce the idea to absurdity by renaming local education authorities as “chains” – millions spent on doing nothing.

The best school is one rooted not in a corporate culture but in its community. It is one in which teachers are answerable to that community and its parents. The role of the state, as in the health and social care, should be in inspection and financial support. When the state decides it must run something itself, it will fail. This reform will fail.”

http://gu.com/p/4tm5k

In Devon, child services have already been outsourced to Virgin.

Was your dad a GI who stayed here? Were you born in this country? You can can claim non-domicile status and avoid UK tax

“Richard Caring, the restaurateur and clothing tycoon, has emerged as one of the major beneficiaries of generous dividends paid by BHS in the early days of Sir Philip Green’s ownership.

The Guardian has established that Caring, the owner of The Ivy and Le Caprice, was handed £93m in payouts from the retailer, which fell into administration this week – his share of more than £422m in dividends paid to shareholders including the Green family. …

… Caring is a UK-born citizen, has a London mansion known as the “Versailles of Hampstead”, and claims hereditary non-domicile tax status thanks to the US origins of his father, a former GI who settled in London after the war. This quirk enabled Caring not to disclose the existence of his Swiss or Monaco accounts to the UK tax authorities, and legally to avoid taxes on his capital held there.”

http://gu.com/p/4tyh8