Caught out again: but if anyone demands clarity from Boris Johnson, isn’t this the best response we can hope to get?
Boris Johnson seems to have painted himself into a corner with his claim to be putting more money into building affordable homes.
Boris Johnson’s claim to “build, build, build” his way out of the coronavirus pandemic was thrown into confusion amid claims that he appeared to have cut funding for affordable housing.
As he delivered a speech in Dudley, No.10’s website suggested that £12bn would be spent on housing over the next eight years – even though the Ministry of Housing said after the Budget in March that the same amount would be spent over five years.
The PM faced fresh claims that the Tory party was doing favours for its “housing developer mates” after he unveiled sweeping planning reforms to allow high street shops to be turned into housing.
A government spokesman insisted there had been no cut to funding and that the eight year timeframe was a reference to the delivery of the new homes, rather than the five-year allocation of cash for them.
“This is in line with what was announced at Budget – there has been no cut in funding or delay in delivery.”
If it’s in line with what was announced in the March Budget, then Johnson isn’t offering any extra money.
And in fact, it seems he’ll be giving cash to his “housing developer mates” to do cheap conversions of shops into housing.
So it seems clear that Johnson’s speech was, if not riddled with lies as such, at the very least misleading.
It’s what we’ve come to expect from the Tories – and from Boris Johnson in particular.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Yvette Cooper is only half-right. Cameron certainly lied to win the election – but Labour failed to beat him because Labour did not effectively answer those lies.
Labour’s five-year-long failure to deny the claim that it had spent too much while in government is the perhaps the most obvious example.
But Cooper has chosen to highlight promises that were made to the people of the UK, which have been broken in the very short time since.
David Cameron won the general election on the basis of a series of lies, Yvette Cooper said on Thursday, as she highlighted a series of broken promises by the Conservatives.
In a sharpening of her rhetoric against the Tories, the Labour leadership contender accused Cameron of ripping up nine pre-election promises. She said he had changed tack on areas ranging from child tax credits to housing and rail electrification.
Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “We may have our own leadership election going on, but Labour can’t allow David Cameron to get away with this and carry on like nothing has happened – he is taking the British public for fools. We have to confront him directly on every lie and broken promise – that’s exactly what I plan to do in parliament and across the country.
The nine areas identified by Cooper are:
Cuts in child tax credits. Cooper said Cameron denied during the election that he would cut child tax credits. She said Osborne, the chancellor, unveiled £4.5bn of cuts to child tax credits in the budget which would hit women twice as hard as men.
Cuts to child benefit after Cameron said during the election there would be no cuts beyond a two-year freeze. Cooper says it will now be subject to a four-year freeze.
Cancellation of rail electrification plans.
Downgrading of the number of affordable homes due to be built. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said 14,000 fewer homes will be built.
Delaying of a decision on a new airport runway in south-east England. Downing Street says it is standing by its commitment to reach a decision by the end of this year.
Delay in the introduction of tax-free childcare from 2015 to 2017.
Shelving of an election pledge to give public officials three days off work to take part in volunteering.
Delay until 2020 in the introduction of the social care cap.
Reversal of pledge for greater government transparency after launch of review into freedom of information.
Call-me-Dictator-Dave: Cameron has announced tax cuts which will necessitate further service cuts, at the end of the most fascistic Conservative Party conference yet seen [Image: Telegraph].
Here we are, then – the big offer to bribe the UK’s citizens into voting Conservative, despite the hammering he has given them for the last four and a half years.
To persuade you to let him keep hammering you for another five years, David Cameron is offering to:
Raise the tax-free personal allowance for the lowest earners from £10,500 to £12,500
Raise the threshold for the 40p rate of income tax from £41,900 to £50,000
He said raising the tax-free allowance would help one million people and cut taxes for 30 million more.
Perhaps he thinks we’re stupid. These plans are hasty, back-of-a-fag-packet responses to UKIP’s tax plans, announced at the Purple Party’s conference last Friday. Farage stole his thunder and now he’s trying to claw something back – at the expense of the economy. How is he going to get the deficit down when there’s no tax money coming in? Even if his policies killed every single benefit claimant – and they’re well on the way! – he would not save enough to balance the budget.
Not only that, but paying less tax means more public services will be sold off, and private citizens will have to pay for them, privately, out of their own pockets. We all know that publicly-provided services are cheaper, meaning that this move will cost us much, much more in the long term.
Cameron knows that but his business buddies will benefit so he doesn’t care.
Other promises included:
Protecting the NHS budget for the next Parliament. If he intends to do this the way he raised real-terms spending on it in the current Parliament, there will be no NHS left by 2020. Yet again, he played on the memory of his own disabled son Ivan, who died in 2009 – turning on the water-works when he said, “For me, this is personal”. It is personal for him – he personally wants to be the man who destroyed the NHS altogether – and you can tell what kind of man he is from the way he used a family tragedy in a cynical bid to play on your emotions.
The UK will go to war with Islamic State extremists. Because another war is what we all want – right?
Getting “what Britain needs” in EU negotiations. What Britain needs, or what the Conservative Party needs? And what about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would condemn British workers to a race to the bottom in terms of working conditions and products available, while also locking privatisation of services into our economy, just as the Conservative’s want.
Offering every teenager a place on the National Citizenship Service scheme. Is this Cameron’s version of the Hitler Youth?
Planning to build 100,000 new affordable homes for first-time buyers – because the Tories have been hugely successful getting them built in the current Parliament, haven’t they? (House building hit its lowest point in more than 70 years under the Coalition). And why only 100,000? Labour is offering five times as many.
Cameron described the Tories as “the real party of compassion and social justice”, but in the same speech said people would have to “work a bit longer and save a bit more” – glossing over the facts of life under Conservative governments, that people can’t work when they don’t have jobs, and those who do can’t save when their jobs don’t pay enough.
Notice that he said nothing about social security. On the £25 billion of cuts previously announced by George Osborne (and this was before Cameron decided he was going to do another tax giveaway bribe on the eve of the election), he said, “That’s a lot of money, but it is doable.” It certainly is, if you are willing to cut the state down to the bone, sell everything off to anyone who’ll buy it (China, perhaps?), and don’t care that it will cost millions of lives because the only people to suffer will be poor.
When the history of this period of UK politics is written, David Cameron will appear as a wretched little smear of scum.
The National Housing Federation ran a campaign against the ‘bedroom tax’ while the legislation was going through Parliament – but the government was blind to the concerns of this expert organisation.
Tomorrow (Friday) the Labour Party will do something it hasn’t done in a fair few years – support a Parliamentary Bill put forward by a Liberal Democrat!
Andrew George’s Affordable Housing Bill seeks to soften the effects of the Bedroom Tax by exempting households in which disabled people have had adaptations made to the building, and in which any person in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (but notably not Employment and Support Allowance) is not able to share a bedroom with a partner, meaning that all bedrooms are occupied, if only by the claimant and their partner.
It would also force the Work and Pensions Secretary to review the number of affordable homes and intermediate housing available, assessing the need for such dwellings, progress made in meeting this need and the potential to do so, the role of registered providers and community land trusts, and whether he should act to meet any need revealed by the review.
This could doubly harm the Conservatives as David Cameron went on record during Prime Minister’s Questions many times as the Bedroom Tax passed into law, to say that it would not affect the disabled. Clearly his statements were false; clearly he was lying to Parliament.
It is also public knowledge that the Conservatives were well aware of the lack of appropriate housing for people to downsize into, once the Bedroom Tax came into effect and they were forced to pay for rooms the government now considers to be under-occupied. The plan was never to get people to move into more appropriate accommodation; it was always to force people – who had been allocated housing on the basis of what was available at the time – into a benefit cut created by conditions that were not of their making.
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, writing on LabourList, stated that Labour will support Mr George’s Bill. “Though most MPs will have commitments in their constituencies, I and other Labour MPs will be present in the House of Commons chamber to support the Bill so that it has the best chance of progressing through to its next stage,” she wrote.
It is to be hoped that any absent MPs will have ‘paired’ with opposing MPs, in order to ensure that no side has an unfair advantage when the matter comes to the vote; it is bad enough that the government scheduled the Bill’s second reading for a Friday, when most MPs have constituency duties.
Labour has lately come under fire from certain individuals – including readers of this blog – who are living under the delusion that Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has supported the Coalition government with regard to the Bedroom Tax. Let’s put that to rest with a few more words from the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary:
“Labour has been clear and consistent in its opposition to the Bedroom Tax.
“We said it was cruel and unfair, taking an average £700 a year from half a million low income households. The government has admitted that two thirds of those hit have disabilities, and another 60,000 are carers. All the evidence from housing and disability experts showed that most would have nowhere else to move to.
“We also said it was unworkable and could end up costing more than it saved, with people unable to keep up with their rent, destabilising the finances of housing providers and risking costly eviction proceedings, or ending up with private landlords where rents and housing benefit bills are higher.
“Our fears were confirmed by the government’s own independent evaluation of the policy slipped out over the summer. This revealed that just 4.5% of affected claimants had been able to move to smaller accommodation within the social sector, that 60% had fallen behind with their rent after just six months, and that there was “widespread concern that those who were paying were making cuts to other household essentials or incurring other debts”.
The Affordable Housing Bill is scheduled to be the first discussed in the September 5, 2014 session, and it should be possible to watch the debate at http://www.parliament.uk or the BBC’s Democracy Live site from 9.30am onwards.
These creeps are coming out of the woodwork, it seems.
The latest member of the Conservative Party to reveal his true colours via the social media is Tom Davey. That’s DaVey, not DaLey the Olympic diver – although the world would be a happier place if this guy took a running jump.
Davey has been broadcasting his thoughts on Facebook, spreading messages of hatred towards minorities and women, along with dubious attempts at humour (according to Political Scrapbook) – for at least the past six years.
For example, take a look at this message:
“Benefit claiming scum beware. ps i don’t like paying taxes for you lazy bastards!”
or this one:
“Finding a job would be easier if [I] were a black female wheel chair bound amputee who is sexually attracted to other women.”
or this one:
“More excited than Harold Shipman in a nursing home.”
The messages were posted in 2008, when he was at the London School of Economics. One is led to question whether he was a member of that organisation’s Tory clubs because this man is now a Conservative councillor in Barnet.
The following year he delivered this:
“Smacking [my] bitch up… that’ll teach her for ironing loudly whilst the football is on!”
He later justified this by saying he does not like football and his wife doesn’t do the ironing.
Has he mellowed in the years since? Evidence suggests otherwise.
Last week, as Barnet Council’s lead member for housing, he admitted that he doesn’t care about the lack of affordable housing pushing poor people out; he wants rich people to take their place.
In a debate that was filmed by a member of the public, he said: “If there is such a problem with Barnet, if Barent is such a terrible place to ive and if it is so unaffordable, why are people flocking to Barnet and why are house prices going up? It’s because people want to live here.”
Challenged by an opposition councillor who said the only people coming were those who could afford it, he blurted: “And they’re the people we want!”
Vox Political is not rich enough to live in Barnet.
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Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.
The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.
More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.
To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.
This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.
Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.
One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”
Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.
More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.
And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.
“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.
He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”
Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.
“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”
Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.
Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.
Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”
But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.
We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.
The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.
So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.
This is a piece I wrote for the local credit union in my part of Powys, following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s vow that the Church of England would fight payday lenders. Quite right – usury is an evil that religious organisations traditionally oppose. I’m publishing it here because the main information is relevant nationwide (and also because today appears to be quite slow for political news).
Credit unions must rise to the challenge created by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s stand against payday lenders, according to a leading figure in a Mid Wales organisation.
Richard Bramhall of Red Kite Credit Union said the main issue facing credit unions was how to bring affordable credit to “people on the edge”.
Last month, the Most Reverend Justin Welby announced that he planned to help community-based credit unions by allowing them to use Church of England premises as bases, to put firms like Wonga.com, which charge huge amounts of interest for their loans, out of business.
“His idea is very constructive,” said Mr Bramhall.
“Instant credit is a difficult sector to service because of high rates of defaulting. Payday lenders, door-step lenders and loan sharks – and to a lesser extent banks and credit card companies – answer the threat of bad debt by charging monstrous interest rates.
The Credit Union approach is responsible lending, careful interviews, getting guarantors where possible and working with the member to develop financial competence.
“The ethos always was to save; build a relationship with the credit union through saving – becoming a shareholder – and borrowing using the shareholding as security. They pay low interest and benefit by keeping and growing their shares.
“We do not want to lend at high rates,” he said. “Our standard rate is 12.68 per cent, or one per cent per month. If you borrowed £100 over a year and paid it back without interruptions, it would cost you £6.60 in interest, with no extra charges and no penalty for early repayment.”
But he warned: “The population density here is so low and the conceivable number of members so small that, even if everyone joined, our income from loan interest would not be enough to pay for bank-type premises or employees.”
The Credit Union’s solution is what Mr Bramhall calls ‘barefoot banking’. He said “The Herb Garden Café, in Llandrindod Wells, is an example. You can access credit union services six days a week, 12 hours a day – not just when we’re open but any time we’re in the building. People can pick up leaflets, ask about the credit union, leave messages, make payments and collect cheques. It costs the café nothing.
“If people want to help, they could develop the sort of access point we have here. Our greatest need is for self-motivating volunteers and casual drop-in service points in shops, churches, cafes and even private homes all over Radnorshire and north Brecknock.”
He added that credit unions also needed to establish themselves in schools, teaching responsible money management to youngsters.
Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith (Vox‘s Monster of 2012, let’s not forget) delivered woeful performances on radio and TV respectively, during the weekend – discussing the Bedroom Tax.
That’s right – the Bedroom Tax. Not the “spare-rooms subsidy”, not the “under-occupation subsidy” – the Bedroom Tax. The tax on bedrooms that is being levied on some of the poorest people in the land, who cannot move to smaller premises because a previous Conservative administration stopped them from being built.
Tweedle-Shapps and Tweedle-Smith clearly need a lesson in what taxation actually is. The sad part is that they probably think they delivered good performances.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Shapps said: “Labour have very cleverly deemed this to be a tax; of course it’s exactly the opposite to a tax. It’s a spare-rooms subsidy, that’s being paid through the benefits system, on a million empty bedrooms in this country, which makes no sense.
“We’re not using the housing we have in this country in a proper way… What we can’t continue to do, and we can’t afford to do, is pay for a million empty rooms whilst we’ve got a waiting list that doubled under the previous administration and with so many people in desperate need of a house at all.”
Mr Smith, on The Andrew Marr Show said: “We have in social sector housing a very large number of people in houses where they have many more bedrooms than they actually need… Meanwhile we have over a quarter of a million people in overcrowding and a million people on the waiting list, trying to get into housing.
“The last government let house building fall to the lowest level since the 1920s… What we want is those that are under-occupying their properties, we need to help them to be able to move to property that they would occupy-”
Eddie Mair, standing in for Andrew Marr, interjected: “You mean force them?”
Smith plunged on: “What we’re saying is, ‘Look – you can stay where you are, but if you do, you have to pay more.'” (In other words, yes, he means “force them out”).
Mr Mair again: “But cough up. We know you’re very poor, but pay more.”
Smith was determined: “People… who rent in the private sector under housing benefit – they’re not allowed to have extra bedrooms. They’ve never been. So they are only paid, in the private sector, for the number of bedrooms they occupy.”
Mr Mair, an astonished inflection in his voice, spluttered: “But the point of social housing is to help-”
Now Smith fell back on the real reason for the change: Money. “Look, the taxpayer is paying about £900 per household to help people stay in social housing.”
Put these things together and we get a clear picture of what’s going on. First, a bit of history:
Back in the sunlit days before Margaret Thatcher first won an election, local councils were permitted to build and maintain social housing stock. I know this seems an alien concept now, but they were actually allowed to build houses in which poor people could live, for a rent that they could meet.
Then the Thatcher government came into office and she decided to sell off council houses at discounts of up to 70 per cent. Of course, take-up was huge. People believed they would be able to sell the properties on at a later date – for a profit – and go further up the housing ladder, and this appears to be what happened. The houses that were sold on again tended to go to professional private landlords, who then rented them at a higher price than the councils who originally owned them.
The policy raised more than £20 billion for the Conservative government, but it never allowed that money to be ploughed back into council house-building. That money has disappeared; we don’t know what was done with it (in fact, if anybody does know where it is, please write in and let us know)!
My understanding is that councils had expected to be able to use the receipts for a new house-building programme but then, by one of those “coincidences” – and I put that word in quotation marks for a very good reason; I don’t think they are coincidences at all – for which the Tory Party should be infamous, another policy was introduced – the Rate Cap.
Local taxation at the time was done by a method known as the Rates. We’ve had Poll Tax and Council Tax since then (and will soon have the Poll Tax back, thanks to Eric Pickles and his evil, misnamed little ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme’) so many readers may not remember them.
The idea was to stop councils from spending more than the Tory government thought they should, by limiting the amount of money they could spend every year, and creating a blacklist of councils that transgressed, with associated penalties.
Result: any new council house-building was stopped dead.
It’s a situation that has continued to this day. During the New Labour years, there was a push for new social housing with a condition on planning permission for new estates, that a certain proportion of the new build had to be “affordable” housing.
Result: We now have a huge amount of land with planning permission for estates that have never been built, as developers are reluctant to create housing for which they won’t be able to screw maximum profit from the buyers.
So, successive governments have created a situation where the queue for social housing is very large. Even though the plan during New Labour’s time had the best intentions, my opinion is that it was scuppered by the greed of developers.
Now we have the Nasty Party in office again, and of course they want to screw as much money out of the poor as possible.
They don’t want to build any new social housing; they want people to rent from the private sector, who will try to screw the highest amount out of them.
In order to push them out, they have invented this new term, “spare-rooms subsidy”, or “under-occupation subsidy” – that never existed before. They have declared that people – who are only occupying the houses that were available to them when they went into social occupancy – are now receiving that subsidy for any spare bedrooms they may have (no matter whether there was a reason for having those rooms in the past, or may be one in the future). And in April they will remove an arbitrary amount – nobody knows how they arrived at the figure – from tenants’ housing benefit.
Result: As Eddie Mair said, these people will be forced out – into the arms of private landlords, who will charge more while they will receive less help from the government.
The money saved will, we’re told, be used to help balance the national finances, which is a policy of this government.
So, getting back to the point – the removal of this recently-dreamed-up “subsidy” istaxation, because the money removed from UK citizens will be used to finance government expenditure. That is the definition of tax.
Dangerously right-wing policies wrapped in a fuzzy exterior – but can Boris Johnson pull the wool over our eyes?
After David Cameron’s calamitously poor speech at the Conservative Party Conference, everyone seems to be touting Boris Johnson as the new Great Blue Hope for the Nasty Party.
He seems plausible, after all – a bear-like, genial-looking, slightly buffoonish, overgrown child who seems to fumble his way through his commitments, presumably on his way to a social get-together or a recording of Have I Got News For You. A friendly figure who should be taken to the public heart.
In fact, he’s nothing of the sort. His policies are more right-wing and dangerous to the poor than Cameron’s.
Let’s take law and order as an example. As London’s mayor, Boris has relieved more than 1,700 police officers of their duties, along with 1,800 community support officers. He then claimed that crime had dropped by 12 per cent. Recorded crime has indeed dropped, but only by 5.6 per cent. So he’s a liar.
Last year, he spent £50 million making Metropolitan Police civilian staff redundant.
Under Boris, social housing starts in London have fallen to their lowest level for a decade, with only 25 affordable properties being started in each of London’s 32 boroughs in the three months from April to June. That’s half the number for the same period last year. Local authority waiting lists show 366,613 households waiting for homes.
For those on middle-to-higher incomes, home ownership is an increasingly distant dream, with Shelter estimating that the average first-time buyer must now rent for 31 years before they can buy their own home – at a cost of £300,000 in private sector rent.
In this sector, rents soared by 12 per cent last year, but more than 33 per cent of homes do not meet Decent Homes standards, and tenants are often exposed to a lack of stability caused by rogue landlords and short-term tenancies.
In his conference speech, Boris announced a new “Housing Covenant”, with £100 million to help 10,000 “modest income” households become home owners – but this doesn’t event claw back the amount the Coalition government cut from London’s affordable house building budget in 2010. In 2009-10, £310 million was spent on housing for first-time buyers.
He has cut the London police force and reduced housing, despite rapidly rising demand.
What do you think he would do if he was allowed to play with the whole of the UK?
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