Tag Archives: mortgage

‘The SNP’s Tory-LibDem second term’

Big Mouth strikes: Stewart Hosie was desperate to wrongly lay blame for the economic crisis on Labour. Now he's being told that every vote for the SNP could help enable a Conservative-Liberal Democrat second term.

Big Mouth strikes: Stewart Hosie was desperate to wrongly lay blame for the economic crisis on Labour. Now he’s being told that every vote for the SNP could help enable a Conservative-Liberal Democrat second term.

SNP mouthpiece Stewart Hosie should have known better than to try to score political points with information from Oxford’s Professor of Macroeconomics.

After Professor Simon Wren-Lewis (author of the Mainly Macro blog) confirmed to The Conversation that Nicola Sturgeon’s claims about austerity* were correct, “with no qualifications” (meaning he would not correct her on any aspect of it), Hosie spouted the following in a press release:

“Professor Wren-Lewis reflects what many other experts and indeed members of the public know all too well – that Tory/Lib Dem austerity has done deep harm to the country’s recovery from the Labour recession.” [Italics mine]

Here’s the response from Prof Wren-Lewis (bolding mine):

“Oh dear – ‘the Labour recession’. That would be the global financial crisis that originated with US subprime mortgages! Calling this the Labour recession is just stupid, and is something I would never say. It is very unfortunate (and I hope it is just a misfortune) that Stewart Hosie appeared to suggest that I had said or implied that. Whatever the intention, it indicates that at least some in the SNP are still in the business of making highly misleading statements to advance their cause.

“While on the subject of the SNP and this election, let me make one final point, just in case any prospective SNP voters read this. In the quite likely event that the Conservatives get more seats than Labour, but less seats than Labour and the SNP combined, in a situation where either side would need LibDem support Nick Clegg has made it clear he will talk to the Conservatives first. That will almost certainly lead to the current coalition government continuing. Clegg’s reasoning for doing this makes little sense, but the SNP cannot influence Clegg’s decision, and I suspect nor can his party even if they were minded to.

“If that comes to pass, then every vote for the SNP rather than Labour that loses Labour seats becomes a vote to continue with the current government. That is not an opinion, but a factual statement. So, to be consistent with his own logic, I think Stewart Hosie would have to call this election result the SNP’s Tory-LibDem second term.”

If we’re honest, this means Nicola Sturgeon really does need to ask England and Wales not to vote Tory, as this blog stated a few days ago.

Any questions (or indeed squeals from the SNP cultists in our readership)?

*She had said: “In the last five years, austerity has undermined our public services, lowered the living standards of working people, pushed more children into poverty and held back economic growth.”

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Labour’s spending plan could humiliate the Tories

"There is an alternative" - and it doesn't have to cost more than we're spending now.

“There is an alternative” – and it doesn’t have to cost more than we’re spending now.

It seems some people are upset that Labour has announced it does not intend to increase public spending, if elected into office after next year’s general election.

This is a perfectly reasonable reaction, depending on the amount of information available to the person holding that opinion.

In other words, if you don’t know why Labour has made this decision, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the former Party of The Left has turned Tory-lite.

That’s why we’re hearing that Labour will simply continue Tory policies; that the main three parties are “all in it together” (to overuse a hackneyed and devalued phrase).

But evidence is available to suggest that this is a big mistake.

To finance extra spending, Labour would have to borrow more money – but this would push up interest rates and create a potential disaster for people with mortgages and loans to pay off.

According to Modern Monetary Theory – an economic method that seems to have earned credence with all the main parties – government borrowing is not undertaken to finance its spending, but to maintain a target interest rate.

In times of recession, businesses borrow more and households find it hard to save money for a rainy day (as the saying goes). We have spent most of the last decade either in recession or in the slowest recovery in British history and the private sector simply doesn’t have the spare cash to pay higher interest demanded on loans in the wake of higher government borrowing.

Labour wants to safeguard those businesses; Labour wants to safeguard your homes.

The alternative would cost any government much more in the long run.

It’s as simple as that.

So Labour has set a spending target that is the same as the Conservatives’, ensuring that interest rates can be kept under control.

This doesn’t mean it will continue with Conservative-led spending plans. That would be a betrayal of Labour’s core voters.

Instead, it seems more likely that Labour will seek to stimulate the economy by taking funding away from wasteful areas – this blog would certainly wish to see less public money given to private contractors who pocket half of it as profit – and investing it in economic growth.

With more money flowing through the system and coming back to the Treasury in taxation, it will then become easier to relax restrictions on interest rates, which will help the government with its debt issue (this has to do with the way governments borrow money, issuing bonds at fixed rates of interest, and is a story for another day).

If Labour’s plan works, it will mean humiliation for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, as Labour will have spent exactly the same amount doing it as those other parties have been spending for the previous five years – to little effect.

Do not misunderstand; it is perfectly possible that Labour’s spending plans could be entirely wrong-headed! Labour spent most of the last 20 years experimenting disastrously with neoliberal thinking that, continued and concentrated by the Coalition government, has led us to the current pretty pass.

In this case, it seems the Devil really is in the detail.

But the overarching strategy is sound and Labour should not be criticised for it.

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Rogues turn government Twitter feed against Miller

Found on Facebook: Members of the public on all the main social media are queueing up to take a pop at former DWP minister and benefit fraudster Maria Miller. How long will David Cameron delay sacking her, and how weak will he seem by the time he gets round to it?

Found on Facebook: Members of the public on all the main social media are queueing up to take a pop at former DWP minister and benefit fraudster Maria Miller. How long will David Cameron delay sacking her, and how weak will he seem by the time he gets round to it?

In comparison to recent events in this saga, what follows is light relief.

A so-called “rogue” Twitter user commandeered a government feed to post satirical comments about the Maria Miller expenses scandal, yesterday evening. (Saturday)

The three tweets appeared on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s feed, where they were picked up and shared widely before government watchdogs had a chance to hush them up. The offending tweets have since been deleted from the DCMS feed.

“Seriously though guys which one of us hasn’t embezzled and cheated the taxpayer? #FreeMariaMiller,” ran the first tweet.

This was swiftly followed by one that claimed Miller, who falsely claimed more than £40,000 in mortgage interest payment for a south London house, saying it was her second home while her parents used it as their first, was “like a modern day Robin Hood, she robs the poor to help the rich”.

Miller, who made more than £1 million in profit when she sold the house in February, was ordered to pay back just £5,800 and apologise to Parliament for failing to co-operate with an investigation. The final rogue tweet asked: “Is @Maria_MillerMP guilty? We will let the public decide.”

Unfortunately it seems that the Conservative Party has rallied around the (confirmed) criminal in its ranks and has no intention of allowing British justice anywhere near Miller. They’re all in it together, you see.

That is why Grant Shapps, who knows a thing or three about false claims himself (ask him about his other persona, ‘Michael Green’) wants to “draw a line” under the affair – and why our pitifully weak comedy Prime Minister David Cameron wants to “leave it there”.

It seems the DCMS is also happy to “leave it there”. A spokeswoman has confirmed it was investigating the hacking but, when asked if Twitter or the police had been contacted, admitted: “All I’ve done is change the password.”

A Parliamentary investigation cleared Miller of using public money to provide for her parents, in spite of all the evidence that this was precisely what she had been doing, including a recent revelation that the size of energy bills for the house indicated that somebody had been using it as their main, rather than second, home.

The affair has set off a public outcry, with calls for Miller to resign or be sacked, and for the former Department for Work and Pensions minister to face the same criminal justice system as anyone else accused of wrongly taking taxpayers’ money – like a benefit cheat.

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Fraudulent minister gets (metaphorical) slap on the wrist

One law for them...: This image appeared on Twitter, summarising how the law treats MPs in comparison with the rest of us.

One law for them…: This image appeared on Twitter, summarising how the law treats MPs in comparison with the rest of us.

Fraudster – and Minister for Equalities – Maria Miller has been ordered to repay £5,800 and apologise to Parliament after an inquiry found she had over-claimed mortgage expenses.

In essence, she made fraudulent expenses claims that were not reduced to accommodate a fall in interest rates.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards launched an investigation into her behaviour after it was reported that, between 2005 and 2009, she had claimed £90,718 in Parliamentary expenses for the mortgage and upkeep of a south London house that was occupied, not by Mrs Miller, but by her parents.

The Commons Committee on Standards did what’s usually expected and cleared Miller of the central charge – deliberately submitting expenses claims to which she was not entitled. Instead, she is being penalised because her attitude to the inquiry breached the ministers’ code of conduct.

The committee rejected the charge that she or her parents had benefited financially from the arrangement. That’s very interesting, considering that Miller recently sold the south London house at the centre of the affair, making a profit of £1 million (according to the Daily Telegraph).

John Mann MP, whose complaint led to the inquiry being launched, has been tweeting on the subject. He says: “Miller forced to apologise for showing ‘completely inappropriate attitude to the inquiry’. Doesn’t take it seriously.

“Miller’s attitude will infuriate the public, who have had enough of expenses scandals and MPs’ arrogance. David Cameron will be accused of hypocrisy if he does not sack Maria Miller today.”

He’s right – look at this representative tweet from ‘Amy’: “MP Maria Miller expected to repay thousands in overpaid expenses & make an apology. If she was a benefit claimant she would be jailed.”

Mr Mann’s own article about it can be found here.

If Miller had been arrested and put on crown court trial for fraud (as seems likely, considering the “legalistic” way she tried to defend herself against the Parliamentary commissioner’s inquiries), she could have been imprisoned for up to 10 years. That is what happens to other people. But Parliament looks after its own.

Do you think that is fair?

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Osborne promising full employment – is this an April Fool?

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne's talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove's 'free schools'. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne’s talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove’s ‘free schools’. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

The answer has to be in the affirmative. Conservatives can’t promise full employment because it simply isn’t part of their philosophy.

As this blog has stated many times, Tories need a discontented underclass fermenting away beneath the lowest-paid members of the working class, in order to create the level of fear necessary to keep wages down.

The argument is that a person will not ask for a pay rise if they know their boss will turn around and say, “There are hundreds out there who will work for less than you – pick up your cards on the way out!”

For a more easy-access disproval of Osborne’s claim, we only have to look a little further into his speech – from the part where he said: “For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.”

Hang on! When did our great Social Security system change from being a safety net to help get people back into work to “paying people to stay on welfare”?

Oh yes, that’s right – when we had an unelected Conservative government foisted on us. Tories pay people to stay on welfare because they need that fermenting underclass. The aim is always not to pay enough (as you will see).

The next few lines contain unfounded claims and opinions. See for yourself:

“We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work.” According to whom?

“There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.” But there isn’t enough help now. Come to that, there aren’t enough jobs. Where are all the jobs, George?

“Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to work.” How many people, George? Five? Six? You make it seem as though more than a million jobseekers were sitting at home and drawing as much money in social security as at work. That would be a lie, George.

“That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.” Whereas Conservative policy means what? Oh yes – they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.

“It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.” Tory divide-and-rule. You are different to them, because you have a job. If you are low-paid, it is because they are sucking down your tax money to pay for their extravagant lifestyles (I think we’ve all quite thoroughly killed that particular myth, haven’t we? It doesn’t exist outside the Tory political mind).

“Next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them… Benefits will only go up by 1 per cent – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.” This means people on benefits will start to become much worse-off than they are already. Jobseekers’ allowance used to be pegged at around one-sixth of average pay but will now drop to a far lower proportion, because the Tories lied to you when they said benefit rises were far greater than pay rises. One per cent of Jobseekers’ Allowance at a weekly rate of £71 is 70p; one per cent of the average weekly wage in April 2013, which was £517 per week, is £5.17. You see the difference? Oh, and one more thing: Where are all the jobs, George?

“When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working.” How many people, George? Five? Six? One, perhaps?

“So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.” I’m not actually opposed to ensuring that people on benefits can’t take home more than people in work. However, while accurate, this line is disingenuous. George has ensured that a family out of work takes home at least £5,000 less, per year, than an average working family because of the way he and his Tory friends rigged the system. He’s lying to you.

“And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.” He means “pays more than benefits”. He doesn’t mean “pays a living wage”. Spot the difference?

Now here comes some more oppression, based on a really big lie.

“From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits. We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.” What work? Where are all the jobs, George?

“So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.” Help and encouragement, is it, George? Have you witnessed the kind of “help and encouragement” they get at the job centre? DWP employees should face harassment charges for the disgraceful way they treat their fellow citizens.

“We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit. From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.” Why? In order to drive people into grinding poverty as early as possible? Forcing people to wait until they claim means they could be without money for food, accommodation and utilities for up to a month, while the system processes them. This is not fair. It is cruel and demeaning – especially when Tory George knows there’s no work to be had.

“When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.” This is the Universal Jobmatch website that is habitually used by criminals for identity theft, or to offer jobs in the sex industry. It’s so bad that the government itself is planning to ditch it when the contract with its provider runs out in two years’ time. Why would anybody in their right mind use that?

And now here’s the clincher:

“We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits – whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.”

In other words, they will ensure that fewer jobs are available by making jobseekers do the work for nothing. Brilliant idea, George – you are wrecking our economy.

“All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.” A lie, couched in truth. The Welfare State is based on the principle that people on hard times were able to take advantage of benefits because, when in work, they paid into the system via taxes and National Insurance. That’s the “something for something”. It is not based on the idea that jobseekers have to take jobs off the market by doing them for free. That’s just plain silly.

In fact, George, you are just plain silly.

So, returning to the question in our headline, it’s clear to see the answer.

If anyone here is an April Fool, it’s George Osborne.

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Are the Tories planning to bury us in debt when interest rates rise?

Don't look so smug, George - we know what you're trying to do.

Don’t look so smug, George – we know what you’re trying to do.

It is surprising that they don’t seem to think we can make the connections.

Two articles have leapt from the national media to trouble us this week. The first, in the Telegraph, states that the economic recovery that has made George Osborne so proud is built on mounting consumer debt and a housing bubble.

(This is something that has been known to us for several months, in fact. Osborne’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme is the principle cause of the bubble, and it was recently revealed that there is no way to slow it down. Let’s not forget that the taxpayer is underwriting the scheme – so when the bubble bursts we will have to pay both as individuals and as a nation!)

The second article is on the BBC News website, which tells us that up to 1.4 million extra households could face “perilous” levels of debt when interest rates begin to rise – in addition to the 600,000 families already in that situation.

(It adds that mortgages are the largest source of household debt.)

Vox Political has long held the belief that the Conservatives have been trying to increase personal debt. Whether the plan was to decrease the national debt in this way is debatable as the deficit has plateaued at around £120 billion for the last few years.

When Mark Carney became governor of the Bank of England, he said he would not raise interest rates until unemployment falls below seven per cent – which might provide a bit of breathing-room for those having to deal with mounting debt.

However a few months ago, at the Conservative conference, we heard that George Osborne wants to falsify unemployment figures by putting the long-term unemployed on Workfare indefinitely.

If a person is put on Workfare, they are removed from unemployment statistics, even though they only receive social security payments for the work they do.

We already know that figures show a larger fall in unemployment than commentators had anticipated, so it now stands at 7.4 per cent, according to official statistics. Putting hundreds of thousands more people on Workfare should cut that figure below Mr Carney’s benchmark.

Meanwhile, household debt is due to rise to 160 per cent of income by 2018, partly because wages are dropping in comparison with inflation. The number of households using half their disposable income to repay debt could rise from 600,000 to 1.1 million if interest rates rise to three per cent (according to the Resolution Foundation, as quoted in the BBC piece) – and to two million if rates hit five per cent.

In the light of this information we must ask ourselves: Is this a Tory trap? Are they trying to create conditions in which more people on low or middle incomes become indebted to the rich, just by fiddling interest rates?

What do you think?

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Public and private debt reach record levels under ConDem Coalition

inflation

Household debt in the UK has reached a record £1.43 trillion, according to the BBC. What a marvellous achievement for Gideon George Osborne to put next to his already-record public net debt of £1.212 trillion (excluding interventions) or £2.184 trillion (including them).

If you’re surprised at that, don’t be – he needs to pretend that there isn’t any money so he can cut any services that are still left in the public domain after the fire sale of the last few years.

The Tory plan was always to increase private debt. Of course it was – if you cut public spending for people on the breadline, then they go into debt. Why do you think Wonga.com’s owner Dawn Capital is such a prolific contributor to Tory Party funds, with £537,000 in known donations this time last year?

The rich are shielded from debt problems in the same way they are shielded from taxation, thanks to the way our tax laws have been rewritten in their favour – all their money is safely tucked away in tax havens and can’t be touched.

On average, each adult in the UK owes £28,489. Some owe much more than that, though. Yr obdt srvt doesn’t owe a bean to anyone, despite being very poor, so that’s already £28,489 to be spread among everyone else. Mrs Mike isn’t in debt either.

The BBC report cautiously suggests that the record debt level “might increase concerns that the UK’s economic recovery [you know, the one they keep talking about on the news and in Parliament as if it actually exists] is based on increased borrowing, rather than growth sustained by rising incomes” – which of course is correct.

According to The Money Charity, total net lending by UK banks and building societies rose by £1.9 billion in September 2013 – that’s just in one month.

Over the four quarters to Q2 2013, they wrote off £3.67 billion of loans to individuals. In Q2 2013, the daily write-off was £7.61 million.

Based on the latest available data, every day in the UK 285 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt – that’s one every five minutes; 84 properties are repossessed; 1,447 people lost their jobs and eight people became unemployed for more than 12 months; 141 mortgage possession claims are issued and 113 mortgage possession orders are made; and 431 landlord possession claims are issued and 319 landlord possession orders are made.

The benefit system helps nobody. It has been redesigned specifically to push people further into debt – the cap on benefit rate increases to one per cent per year means people are two per cent worse-off for every year it continues, while inflation remains at current levels.

It is in this atmosphere that words written in this blog more than a year ago come back to haunt us all: “What do people do for money when the State fails them and they can’t get work? They fall into the debt trap.

“High-interest, doorstep lending to poor people is Britain’s latest – perhaps only – boom industry. In other words, the government’s sick benefits regime is forcing the poor into debt to organisations that will take away everything they have left, in order to make up payments on a loan whose interest rate they probably made up on the spot.

“And when they’ve taken everything, what do you do then?

“Do you really want your kids to starve?”

Windbag Cameron is afraid to give us the facts

Leading us down the garden path: Cameron wants us to believe the economy is growing but, like a bad gardener, he hasn't fertilised it, and has allowed it to be overrun with weeds. [Image: Andy Davey www.andydavey.com]

Leading us down the garden path: Cameron wants us to believe the economy is growing but, like a bad gardener, he hasn’t fertilised it, and has allowed it to be overrun with weeds. [Image: Andy Davey www.andydavey.com]

“The week before the autumn statement, and the right honourable gentleman [Ed Miliband] cannot ask about the economy because it is growing. He cannot ask about the deficit because it is falling. He cannot ask about the numbers in work because they are rising. People can see that we have a long-term plan to turn our country around.”

Strong words – uttered by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (November 27).

What a shame he chose to give Parliament bluster instead of facts.

Does he think that the economy is growing because of the housing price bubble engineered by his deranged Chancellor via his ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? It is massively increasing the cost of housing in London but will inevitably lead to a crash and the loss of serious amounts of money for both buyers and the government (as mortgage underwriter). The Bank of England has revealed that it has no power of veto and can only advise on whether the scheme should continue – it is for the Conservative-led government to decide how long it will last.

Gideon’s ‘Help to Buy’ offers unsupported mortgage guarantees to buyers and lenders. He has not said where he will find the money for it. Critics have warned that this is simply creating another housing-fuelled debt bubble that will burst in a couple of years’ time, leaving even more people in debt than after the financial crisis hit us all.

Michael Meacher has read the £130 billion scheme right – as we can see from his blog: “Where does that sort of money come from when the public accounts are under extreme pressure to make enormous cuts? State-subsidised mortgages for the well-off (houses valued at up to £600,000) seems, even for Osborne, a strange decision when some of the poorest tenants in the country are at the same time being expelled from their homes by the bedroom tax.

“It can only be explained by Osborne panicking at the time of the March budget this year that the economy showed no sign of recovery in time for the 2015 election, made worse by his mistaken increase in VAT and big cuts in capital spending. He chose a big artificial stimulus of the mortgage market to kick-start the moribund economy, repeating the mistake of every previous boom triggered by consumer borrowing and a pumped-up housing market, an inevitable forerunner eventually of yet another round of boom and bust.”

Does Cameron really think the deficit is falling fast enough to revitalise the nation’s economy? In October, borrowing (excluding the cost of interventions like bank bailouts, so we’re already in the realm of made-up figures) fell by two one-hundred-and-thirds, from £8.24 billion in the same month last year to £8.08 billion.

We are told the aim is to keep borrowing for 2013-14 at £120 billion or below. In his ‘Emergency Budget’ of 2010, Osborne predicted that borrowing this year would be down to half that – at £60 billion, and estimates have been rising ever since.

The 2011 budget had the 2013-14 deficit at £70 billion; in 2012 it was expected to be £98 billion; and now £120 billion – double Osborne’s prediction when he became Chancellor.

As for the numbers of people in work, let’s ask Cameron: If more people are working, why has productivity fallen back to the level it reached in 2005? Is it because employers are taking on workers in part-time, zero-hours or self-employed contracts, rather than full-time, in order to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of their holiday pay, sick pay and National Insurance obligations? This seems most likely.

Average wages have been cut by nine per cent since 2010, in real terms, and are still falling. Should Cameron really be boasting about this?

Now German-owned energy firm Npower is cutting 1,460 British jobs. It seems customer service and back-office functions will be outsourced to those well-known friends of the UK government, Capita and Tata.

Kingfisher, the owner of DIY chains B&Q and Screwfix, has suffered a five per cent drop in share values after profits dipped.

And Hibu, the company that owns Yellow Pages, has gone into administration with £2.3 billion of debts. Another old friend of the UK government – Deloitte – will profit from this as administrator – but who knows what will happen to Hibu’s 12,000 employees?

These are just today’s business headlines on the BBC News website – the day after Cameron boasted that the economy was on the rise, the deficit dropping and employment was soaring.

What we’re seeing is not a Prime Minister and Chancellor leading the country back to prosperity.

It’s time we realised that these two chancers have been leading us down the garden path.

Coalition policy success: 80,000 children homeless for Christmas

shame

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.

Tory crime allegations: Why stop with Shapps?

Isn't this fraud? The man pictured is Grant Shapps, but his name tag claims he is Michael Green - the name he used to run How To Corp before and after he became an MP. Isn't that fraud - gaining a financial advantage under false pretences (in this case, the pretence that he wasn't Grant Shapps)?

Isn’t this fraud? The man pictured is Grant Shapps, but his name tag claims he is Michael Green – the name he used to run How To Corp before and after he became an MP. Isn’t that fraud – gaining a financial advantage by deception (in this case, the pretence that he wasn’t Grant Shapps)?

Picture David Cameron’s bemusement, as he stares around the Cabinet at its next meeting, wondering why Labour has asked him to order an investigation into criminal allegations against Grant Shapps – when George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith are in the room.

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher has written to Cameron, calling for Shapps to be suspended and an investigation launched under the ministerial code of conduct after the police said one of his companies may have committed “an offence of fraud”.

The official Conservative line is that the police have closed investigations into Shapps’s How To Corp, there is no case to answer, and any further allegations should be put to the Party (as Dugher has) or the police. The source added: “To suggest there are allegations left unchallenged is actionable”, implying a threat of legal action if Labour persists.

But this is to deny the result of the police inquiry. The Metropolitan Police stated in a letter that the company’s sales of TrafficPaymaster software, that ‘spins and scrapes’ content from other websites, “may constitute an offence of fraud, among others”, but that this would not be investigated further.

Why not? A crime is a crime and the police are specifically employed to prevent it.

It seems that Tory ministers really are above the law.

Look at how the Met brushed off Vox Political‘s attempt to have George Osborne investigated for fraud, after he paid mortgage interest on a paddock with taxpayers’ money, claiming it was an allowable expense on property he needed to perform his duties as an MP – and then sold it off in a package with other land and a neighbouring farmhouse for around £1 million and pocketed the cash.

Apparently it was already under investigation, according to the policewoman who called at the end of last year. Have you heard anything about it since?

Perhaps it was one of the fraud matters that got lost by computer error.

And what about Iain Duncan Smith’s habitual offence of lying to Parliament? He has done this so many times that nobody can say it is unintentional, and he has never apologised for the factual inaccuracies. This is an offence of Contempt of Parliament and according to convention he should have been ejected from the House of Commons months ago and a by-election called for his seat.

If the Conservatives can’t keep their own house clean, why isn’t Labour demanding action on these matters?