Tag Archives: property

Tories prepare to squander more billions by selling off “surplus” NHS land

On the day the government admitted it bungled a property deal involving Ministry of Defence homes, ministers have announced a plan to sell off NHS land.

Do they plan to lose billions of pounds on that, as well?

It should be clear to everybody by now that the Conservative Party does not have the wherewithal to conduct transactions involving public property in anything like a responsible manner.

With the NHS plan in the Naylor Report, we know that the service is starved of resources and it is madness to take even more away from it.

Worse still is the fact that the Tories aren’t interested in getting a good price for the land. They’ll sell it to some friends of theirs at a preferential rate and pass any losses on to the taxpayer, as they usually do.

It’s the same old Tory story – privatise the profits and nationalise the debts.

The Tories have officially backed a controversial report which critics fear could lead to the biggest sell-off of NHS property in history.

The Naylor Report recommended selling around £2 billion of “surplus land” owned by the health service to build 26,000 homes.

It attracted grave concern from campaigners when Theresa May suggested she would back it last summer. And today, health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy gave the report the official government seal of approval.

The announcement came just hours after it was revealed bungling Ministry of Defence chiefs have lost billions of pounds in a disastrous property deal by selling off thousands of homes – then renting them back from the buyer.

Source: The Tories have backed a report recommending a huge sell-off of NHS property – Mirror Online


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NHS ‘fire sale’ is short-term thinking at its worst

Dozens of NHS sites still being used for medical care are up for sale [Image: Getty].

The minority Conservative government has doubled the amount of NHS property it wants to sell, triggering concerns over the service’s financial viability under the Tories.

The plan is to sell off property – including sites that are still being used – in order to raise a quick £10 billion. The problem is that, once the money has been used, the property will be gone. It is short-term thinking that predicts a dire future for health care in the UK.

And why is the nature of some of the land being hidden behind claims that it is “sensitive”? How is it “sensitive”? Is it “sensitive” because it is necessary for the proper functioning of the service, and selling it off will harm healthcare?

Is that how it is “sensitive” – and we’ll only be allowed to know this after it has been sold and there’s nothing to be done?

This is a travesty.

The NHS needs investment. But that’s exactly the opposite of what Tory governments do.

Tories are asset-strippers.

They take from the state, and give to the rich.

That has always been their plan for the NHS.

Already waiting lists are longer than ever before. And, under the Tories, it can only get worse.

A secret “fire sale” of hospital land – including dozens of properties still being used for medical care – is planned to bail out the cash-strapped NHS, new documents show.

The Department of Health has quietly doubled the amount of land it intends to dispose of, triggering accusations of desperate measures to plug a big hole in NHS finances.

Details of more than half of the 1,300 hectares now up for sale have been kept under wraps because of “sensitivity” – raising suspicions that many other sites also have clinical uses.

The revelation comes after the Naylor review called for the NHS to adopt “a more commercial approach” to selling off assets – branding them a “source of untapped value” – and was embraced by Theresa May to help inject £10bn into the NHS.

Read more: Tory government quietly doubles number of NHS properties it is selling off


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Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn says – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

This is a neat response to the Conservative plan that would extend right-to-buy so it includes Housing Association properties, that are privately-owned.

Mr Corbyn is quite correct to say that, if HA properties can be sold off, privately-owned rented properties should also be available to buy.

The ‘Right To Buy’ policy that lets council tenants buy their homes at a big discount should be extended to the tenants of private landlords, a Labour leadership contender has said.

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour needed to go further in tackling the housing crisis and that extending Right To Buy could help more people find a secure place to live.

How will the Tories respond?

Source: Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn says – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

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Oops! Tory chairman Grant Shapps thinks your home is worth more than £2m – Pride’s Purge

The Blue Meanies just keep on shooting themselves in the foot, don’t they? Here’s a piece of unintentional hilarity from Tory Chairman Grant Shapps, courtesy of Pride’s Purge:

Tory chair Grant Shapps thinks your home is worth at least 2 million quid.

He must do.

Because not long after Ed Miliband’s announcement that a Labour government would introduce a tax on homes worth over £2m to raise money to fund the NHS, Shapps tweeted this:

shapps mansion tax

.

Of course, I suppose there’s nothing unusual about top Tories like Shapps getting annoyed about taxes. I mean, a tax on homes? Whatever next? A tax on bedrooms?

Oh …………

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Government should face corporate manslaughter charge after suicide verdict on Stephanie Bottrill

Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.

Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.

It’s official – stress and pressure caused by the Bedroom Tax pushed grandmother Stephanie Bottrill into taking her own life.

Zafar Siddique, coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said he was “satisfied she intended to take her own life” after hearing evidence that Mrs Bottrill had blamed the government’s Bedroom Tax policy for pushing her to suicide in a note she left at her Meriden Drive, Kingshurst, home before walking across the M6 motorway into a collision with a lorry early on May 4, 2013.

The coroner also heard evidence from Dr Bindu Nair, who saw the former postal worker the day before her death after Mrs Bottrill’s daughter-in-law, concerned for her safety, made an appointment.

Dr Nair said Mrs Bottrill had “expressed unhappiness at being pushed by the housing department to make a decision, in half an hour, in reference to being made to move into a smaller property”.

He added that Ms Bottrill was “happy to move but it was the way in which she was forced to make a decision” which had caused her “considerable anxiety and stress”.

Unmentioned in the report is the fact that Mrs Bottrill was found to be exempt from the Bedroom Tax (also called the State Under-Occupation Charge) under the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006, because she had been living at her address since before January 1996.

The implications for the government are enormous.

A British court has accepted that a government policy pushed a UK citizen into ending her life.

Organisations including government departments are guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which their activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

The pressure placed on Mrs Bottrill, according to the evidence of her own doctor, caused “considerable anxiety and stress” that contributed to her decision to commit suicide.

It seems clear that the Department for Work and Pensions – as the organisation responsible for both the Bedroom Tax and the pressure placed on Mrs Bottrill by housing officers – must now face criminal charges under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

As far as this blog is concerned, responsibility for this woman’s death lies firmly with Iain Duncan Smith.

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Three little pigs who are sticking their snouts in the trough to keep out the wolves

Caught out again: Grant Shapps is yet again having to justify his own shady behaviour.

Caught out again: Grant Shapps is yet again having to justify his own shady behaviour.

Here’s a story to get you irritated and annoyed on a hot summer’s day: Your Prime Minister, his Chancellor and the chairman of their political party have all found novel property-based cheats.

According to the Daily Mirror, David Cameron and George Osborne have done a secret deal with the taxman to cut thousands of pounds off the tax they pay while they are living in their famous grace-and-favour homes on Downing Street.

Under the change, which HM Revenue and Customs has buried deep in the small print of its accounts, Cameron is saving a minimum of £1,228 a year, while Osborne’s bill has more than halved, saving him £1,560 a year.

The Mirror points out that this means Osborne is paying just £23 a week and Cameron no more than £35 to live at Britain’s most exclusive address, while the average rent in the UK is £195.

The paper quotes Alex Hilton, director of pressure group Generation Rent, who mocked the top Tories with their election slogan from 2010: “We’re blatantly not all in it together if the residents of Downing Street can wangle themselves a nice bonus while ordinary families are seeing their rent go up by more than wages.”

Meanwhile Grant Shapps, the Tory co-chairman who hid his own shady business deals behind the false names ‘Michael Green’ and ‘Sebastian Fox’ for the first four years of his Parliamentary career, has been receiving campaign funds from a Conservative club that has not submitted a tax return since 2009.

Conservative Club (Hatfield) Ltd has been fined £3,000 by the Financial Conduct Authority for its failure to produce accounts or name its officers. Despite these issues, it seems the club has been entirely able to provide £140,000 to fund Shapps as a candidate in his Welwyn Hatfield constituency.

Shapps has claimed the club is not connected to his local Conservative Association, which is odd – because not only is it based in the same building, paying rent to the association, but its members are all counted as members of the Conservative Party as well.

Was Shapps among the Conservatives who justified last year’s Gagging Act by claiming it was vital that the public had transparency from their MPs?

And didn’t Cameron say his government would be the most transparent ever, in its affairs?

Liars. Pigs with their snouts in the trough, all of them.

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Bedroom tax condemns homes to demolition because they are too expensive for families

The obvious solution: The government should be helping build new social housing - not forcing the demolition of what little there is.

The obvious solution: The government should be helping build new social housing – not forcing the demolition of what little there is.

If the government really wants to make larger social accommodation available to overcrowded families, why are housing associations knocking them down?

They have to go because the Bedroom Tax has made them too expensive, according to The Guardian.

The story, published yesterday, is another nail in the coffin of Iain Duncan Smith’s credibility. It doesn’t matter how many polls the Conservatives produce to support their claim that people agree with them; in practice, it simply doesn’t work.

Housing associations are finding three-bedroomed properties impossible to maintain. They cannot let them out, sell them or keep up with the costs of keeping them while they are empty.

All of this has serious implications for the Coalition government that voted the Bedroom Tax onto the statute books as part of Mr ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith’s hugely unpopular – and now proving to be unworkable – Welfare Reform Act last year.

On Tuesday, MPs will debate the future of the Tax, when Labour members are expected to vote for its immediate repeal. Senior Liberal Democrats are also believed to have doubts – The Guardian (again) has quoted Danny Alexander’s father as saying it is “particularly unfair”.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves has overcome a shaky start in her role as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary to get right on-message with this. According to The Guardian report, she said: “This incompetent and out of touch government seems oblivious to the perverse and costly consequences of this unjust and unworkable policy.

“Not only is it hitting 660,000 vulnerable households, including 440,000 disabled people; the costs to the taxpayer are mounting as people are pushed into more expensive private rented accommodation while existing social homes are left vacant.”

Of course, Dear Reader, she’s right. You read it here first – all the way back in October last year.

Surely it makes more sense to have someone living in these properties, rather than losing them altogether? Does the government have an answer for this?

Apparently not. A government spokes-robot trotted out the same tired nonsense we’ve all come to despise: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform that will return fairness to housing benefit. We’ve been clear that hardworking people should not be subsidising tenants living in properties that are too large for their requirements.”

Let’s all remember that there never was a spare room subsidy for the government to remove. It never existed. Therefore its removal is not a necessary reform; it can never be vital to remove something that is fictional. Also, the removal of a fictional thing cannot restore fairness anywhere.

Hard-working people probably shouldn’t be subsidising tenants who are under-occupying, but then hard-working people were never the only ones paying for this to happen. Everybody in the UK pays taxes one way or another – even children.

And while we’re on the subject of what hard-working people subsidise, why is it bad for them to help people stay in the social housing that was originally allocated to them, but good for them to help massive corporations keep their payroll costs down by paying tax credits, housing benefit and council tax reduction costs for people earning less than the Living Wage? Why is it good for them to pay the cost of MPs’ energy bills as well as their own?

“Consent from the Homes and Communities Agency is required before any social housing provider can dispose of a site on which social housing stood and will ensure that public investment and the needs of tenants are protected,” the robot continued, but we should all know that this will be no obstacle.

Demolition of social housing means land becomes available for private developers to build new, luxury homes for the very rich.

That’s where the big money is.

Who can afford to buy or rent property in Britain now?

This bubble will burst: The Coalition government has engineered a recovery based on the false inflation of house prices and rents.

This bubble will burst: The Coalition government has engineered a recovery based on the false inflation of house prices and rents. It is bound to burst; the only questions are when – and who will be harmed by the fallout? [Picture: Haynesonfire blog]

Today the BBC reported that average private sector housing rents have hit a record high of £757 per month – just three days after the Corporation told us house prices have also hit a record high (averaging £247,000).

If you are an “average” UK earner (whatever that is), then your income has been cut by almost 10 per cent in the three years and five months since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Who can afford to rent at these prices? Who can afford to buy?

And is this the private rented accommodation that people affected by the Bedroom Tax were supposed to rent instead?

Are these the houses on which the government is going to underwrite 15 per cent of the mortgage in its ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? Already a(nother) huge housing bubble is growing and the debt crisis when it bursts will be appalling.

Meanwhile, everything costs a fortune and you have no money.

But somebody is buying. And somebody is renting.

Somebody rich, obviously.

“Higher rents in almost every region show that, despite government schemes, buying a first home is still a difficult aspiration,” the article quotes David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services.

“This is not only down to low salary growth, but also a general shortage of supply – which is the underlying reason why homes are getting more expensive. The long-term trend to renting therefore looks unlikely to change significantly in the near future.”

So the lack of house-building – either to buy or to rent – has proved lucrative for property developers and landlords. They don’t need to build any more if the value of their current buildings keeps rising. And nobody else can afford to build.

In the meantime, people in social housing are feeling the bite of the Bedroom Tax, with 50,000 families in danger of eviction because of it – putting pressure on local authorities who have to pay through the nose to put them into bed and breakfast accommodation instead.

Was this the Tory plan? To make things – the important things like housing and land – so expensive that only they and their friends could afford them? To push you into dependency by proxy?

And we didn’t see it coming?

Gosh.

At least nobody reading this voted for them. Anyone who did that must feel like a real chump now.

Housing benefit cuts: Public opinion poisoned by “toxic” news stories and DWP babble

The real cost of the Bedroom Tax: How many people are going to be thrown out of their homes after losing the arbitrary 'spare-room subsidy', that was invented by people like Lord David Freud, who lives in an eight-bedroomed mansion?

The real cost of the Bedroom Tax: How many people are going to be thrown out of their homes after losing the arbitrary ‘spare-room subsidy’, that was invented by people like Lord David Freud, who lives in an eight-bedroomed mansion?

A report by the Fabian Society has revealed that the majority of the public wants the government to tackle unemployment, low wages and rising rents, rather than make further spending cuts in housing benefit – just as the National Housing Federation said the consequences of April’s bedroom tax (and other measures) have been worse than feared.

Rent arrears have soared, while larger houses are being left empty because people are refusing to move in and pay the arbitrary “spare room subsidy” that the Coalition government dreamed up last year as an excuse to steal housing benefit money from poor families.

Public feeling on the subject has been manipulated by the right-wing media such as the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, according to the Fabian Society report. It showed that people were initially more convinced by arguments against spending on housing benefit, which costs £23 billion per year.

But this changed when astonished poll participants learned that 93 per cent of the increase in housing benefit claims between 2010-11 came from working people.

The survey found that 63 per cent of people felt poverty was “caused by forces beyond the control of the individual”.

Meanwhile David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, told the BBC the impact of the tax had been “at least as bad as we had anticipated, in many cases even worse”.

The government’s stated plan – that withdrawing benefit if people are living in a house with a “spare” bedroom, as defined by the Department for Work and Pensions, would encourage them to move to smaller properties – was never going to work as there are 582,000 more families who would need to move than there are suitable properties for them to move into. This is because successive governments have failed to build social accommodation – including the current Coalition.

But Mr Orr said larger homes, vacated by families that had found alternative accommodation, were now going empty because nobody else could afford to move into them.

Of course, this is a disaster for housing associations – the main operators in the social rented sector since Margaret Thatcher started selling council houses in the 1980s; as their homes go empty, they lose money.

“The numbers of empty homes we’ve got to let are increasing significantly,” said Iain Sim, chief executive of Coast and Country Housing, in the BBC website article. “People are now telling us that because of bedroom tax, they can no longer afford to move into the bigger family homes, and as a consequence of that we’re getting fewer lettings and more empty houses.”

You might feel unsympathetic about this – perhaps you think housing associations are part of the problem because they haven’t built smaller accommodation either. But then, they tend to expect to provide homes for families, so this strategy is understandable.

For those who are trapped in larger houses and forced to pay the bedroom tax, rent arrears are on the increase – East Ayrshire Council says its arrears are up by 340 per cent after the tax was introduced.

And those living near newly-empty houses say they expect an increase in crime as a result.

The BBC report also mentions the case of people like Alison Huggan, whose case was mentioned by Ed Miliband in Prime Minister’s Questions in February. The government told her that parents of children in the military who are deployed on operations would be exempt from the bedroom tax – but her local council has imposed it on her because her military sons’ main residences are deemed to be their barracks in Germany and Cyprus.

She said in the report that she felt “cheated, and lied to”.

Considering the situation, the reason for this is clear: She was.

The Department for Work and Pensions is unrepentant but, compared with what is actually happening, the spiel it trotted out for the BBC piece is incredibly ill-advised. A spokesman said the measure was returning fairness to housing: “In England alone there are nearly two million households on the social housing waiting list and over a quarter of a million tenants are living in overcrowded homes”.

… and the bedroom tax means that large homes that could be used to accommodate them are going empty and housing associations are feeling the pinch. How long will it be before they start to collapse?

“This is causing real misery,” Mr Orr told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Well, it would. It seems that was always the intention.

Skeletons in ministers’ closets (or indeed bedrooms) come back to haunt them

Scrounger: How this former DWP minister can claim to have been tackling skivers after he took more than £100,000 of taxpayers' money that he didn't need must be beyond the comprehension of those of us who really are honest and hard-working.

Scrounger: How this former DWP minister can claim to have been tackling skivers after he took more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money that he didn’t need must be beyond the comprehension of those of us who really are honest and hard-working.

It’s funny how an old news story can be seen in a completely different light as events unfold.

Take this Mirror article from 2009, detailing how then-shadow ministers William Hague and Chris Grayling claimed £166,178 between them, in taxpayers’ money, to pay for accommodation.

Mr Hague, who was earning £800,000 a year from “part-time jobs”, according to the newspaper – and who among us would not like to have part-time work that paid so well? – pocketed £61,995 to pay mortgage interest and a £4,000-per-year service charge, including use of a gym, on a penthouse in London. Hecleared the mortgage in October 2009, just before MPs were forced to publish details of their expenses, the paper said.

Chris Grayling, now Justice Secretary, claimed £104,183 over six years for a London flat, despite having a family home just 17 miles from Westminster.

Add that money to the £100,000 we know George Osborne had from us, to pay mortgage interest and other expenses on his Cheshire farmhouse, paddock and other land there, and we can see that these three ministers alone have claimed more than a quarter of a million pounds – around £266,000 – that they didn’t need.

Now, they and their government are telling us that they can’t afford to pay us back £14 per week (the bedroom tax), even though the amount of our money that they have taken could pay it 19,000 times!

Having limited benefit uprating to one per cent per year for the next three years, they are telling people on Employment and Support Allowance they cannot pay the extra 67p per week that would mean a rise equal to inflation – even though the amount these three ministers alone have had from us – the taxpayers – would pay that amount 397,015 times.

They’re telling us they can’t pay the 84p extra that would bring Jobseekers’ Allowance up to inflation – even though their expenses claims would have paid it 316,667 times.

They keep telling us that the nation’s credit card is “maxed out” and the Treasury cannot afford to pay benefits to those with the least.

Isn’t it the truth that these super-rich millionaires have been taking all our money for themselves?

Scroungers.