DAVID CAMERON’S CHRISTIAN FAITH IS COMFORTABLY SELECTIVE – HE SHOULD THINK ABOUT THE CRUCIFYING POWER OF THE STATE.

DAVID CAMERON’S CHRISTIAN FAITH  IS COMFORTABLY SELECTIVE –  HE SHOULD THINK ABOUT THE CRUCIFYING POWER OF THE STATE.

David Cameron is highly selective about the kind of Christianity he believes in and, as he says, a bit vague about the more difficult parts of the faith. He has experienced the healing power of the Church but says nothing about the crucifying power of the State. People are hungry not because the charities have failed to feed them but because Parliament has passed laws which mean the poorest citizens cannot pay the rent and keep warm at the same time as buy food and cook it. The difficult part of Christianity is in the crucifixion of its founder by the State. His teaching urged us all to love the poorest, marginalized and excluded people first, before the rich and powerful, and in every thing we do, including law making. Most of the rulers of the time also found that difficult to stomach. 

Rev Paul Nicolson

A tsunami of overseas investment is hitting UK rents and house prices creating chaos and misery – YouGov report

LONDONERS ARE BLAMING RICH FOREIGNERS FOR HOUSE PRICE BOOM

Londoners are right.A tsunami of overseas investment is hitting UK rents and house prices creating chaos and misery. It is equally worrying that Haringey Council was paid £18,000 by developers to pay the costs of a councilor going to Cannes, in the South of France, to discuss their joint plans, in luxury yacht, for the demolition of council house estates and development into luxury apartments in Haringey.

This the report from YouGov.

LONDONERS BLAME RICH FOREIGNERS FOR HOUSE PRICE BOOM

by  in Front PageLondon and Politics
Thu April 10, 2014 5:03 p.m. BST

Londoners believe that the biggest cause of soaring house prices is rich people from overseas buying top-end property – and 60% want to make it more difficult for them to do so

By now the London house price boom is inescapable: prices are up 11.6% from just a year ago; the price gap between property in the Capital and elsewhere is now 100% (the highest since records began); and the average home is expected to cost £600,000 by 2018.

At £458,000 the average house in London is now beyond the reach of large portions of society, and Londoners have made their minds up on who is responsible.

Although according to experts 85% of prime London property in 2012 was bought with overseas money, only three per cent of all London homes are bought by foreigners – by value, 6.5 per cent

However, when asked what the biggest reason for recent house price increases is, the largest group (49%) of Londoners say it is rich people from overseas buying top-end property as an investment.


 

Landlords taking on new buy-to-let properties in London are said to be charging twice as much rent as those in the rest of the country, and 40% of Londoners say people buying property as buy-to-let investment is the biggest cause of price increases.

The third biggest cause is increasing numbers of people wanting to move to a city with limited space, chosen by 34% of Londoners.

Proposals

Of course, lying beneath it all is the shortage of supply; research published by the 33 local London authoritiesfound that 809,000 new homes are needed by 2021 to meet existing and new demand.

In fact, in a series of 10 possible proposals for tackling London’s housing problems the most popular, supported by 66%, is encouraging London councils to build more social housing.

51% also support relaxing planning laws to make it easier for new housing to be built, but the rest of the proposals with majority support focus on demand rather than supply.


 

65% support adding new council tax bands for homes worth more than £1 million; 60% support making it more difficult for foreign investors to buy London property; 59% support extra taxes on second homes; and 55% support introducing rent controls so it is less profitable for people to buy-to-let.

The only unpopular proposals are making it more difficult for people to buy property as buy-to-let (supported 38-36%), allowing the building of more skyscrapers and high-rises so more housing can fit in the same space (opposed 43-33%) and taxing any profit people make on the sale of their main home (opposed 63-17%).

The housing boom is now spreading across the country, with activity at levels last seen in 2008; before the financial crisis. Although London is a special case, property prices in Manchester are actually rising faster than in the Capital. According to the Nationwide house price index, prices in Manchester rose by 18%, compared to 17% for London, in the first quarter of 2014.

Image: Getty

See the full poll results

http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/04/10/londoners-blame-rich-foreigners-housing-boom/

To the Parliamentary Group on food and hunger, high rent & the use of bailiffs against poverty incomes creates hunger

The principle reason for food poverty and hunger in the UK is that rent and council tax are taking up an ever increasing amount of diminishing incomes. Th 1% freeze in benefit and wage increases combined with rent and council tax arrears, reduces the incomes  needed for food, water, utilities, transport  , clothes for growing children and other necessities , whose prices are rising faster than 1%, and which were formerly  protected by parliament with 100% council tax and housing benefit  up to April 2013. 

The  2008 local housing allowance,  introduced by Labour then expanded by the Coalition in 2011 and, since April 2013, the £500 overall benefit tax and the bedroom tax all leave rent unpaid by housing benefit. The consequent rent arrears then have to be found out of the remaining benefit income.  Over 300 local councils are also imposing between 8.5% and 30% of the council tax on the same inadequate incomes.

The UK provides an international free market in housing which is in short supply. That is forcing rents up into chaotic unaffordability.  That was set out in my letter  to The Guardian published on the 8th March (see below). I am grateful for Professor Danny Dorling’s comment which follows it.
The uncomfortable truth for land owners, home owners and landlords is that, if poverty is not to spin further out of control in the UK, then the value of their property will have to be reduced and home ownership and renting made affordable. That discomfort is probably felt by the 25% of MPs who own buy-to-let housing. Something will have to give and too much is already being forced out of the poorest citizens.
 
A DEFINITION OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
The late Professor Peter Ambrose and I put together the following definition of affordable housing for the 2005 Z2K Memorandum to the Prime Minister on Unaffordable Housing.
‘Affordable’ in relation to housing requires precise definition. It means that once the cost of rent or mortgage (including service charges) and council tax has been met from the income of a household, be it an individual, a family or pensioners, there remains sufficient to sustain safe and healthy living, provision for the future and participation in the community.‘Unaffordable’ housing means that the remaining income is insufficient to ensure these outcomes”

Peter Ambrose took the definition further by providing the Zacchaeus 2000 Housing Affordability Standard – April 2008 ; it was presented to the London Citizens Mayoral Assembly in 2008.  All the candidates were filmed agreeing to it, including Boris Johnson.

 
OTHER IMPACTS CREATING FOOD POVERTY AND HUNGER.
Benefits reducing in value have been required to pay council tax since 2013 and to continue to pay their TV licence. This has forced an increasing number of low income individuals, who cannot pay the arrears, into a meat mincer of debt and fine enforcement procedures devised mainly to force payment from debtors who are reluctant to pay.

1. The need to  buy food, or enough healthy food, with an inadequate income, leads to non-payment of council tax which attracts expensive and unpayable enforcement osts, including from £60 – £125 of court costs for a liability order, followed by bailiffs fees up to $400. Local authorities apply to the magistrates for about 3 million liability orders every year, , 23,000 in the Borough of Haringey.  That adds to the inability to buy food. These civil cases are dealt with en-bloc by the magistrates , without the presence of the debtors. The magistrates and give power to local authorities to send out the bailiffs, over 9000 times in Haringey alone in 2012/13.  The local authorities have power to remit all or part of the tax, under section 13A of the LGF Act 2012, but rarely do and are even more rarely asked , due to the ignorance of the procedure of the debtors.

2. The need to buy food, or enough healthy food, with an inadequate income, also leads to non-payment of TV licences, which attracts the expensive and unpayable costs of enforcement; that also adds to the inability of benefit claimants to buy food. Fines of up to £210 plus £60 court costs and bailiffs fees are enforced against people who cannot pay the TV license and who do not attend court. More than one in 10 criminal prosecutions in 2012 were for non-payment of the BBC licence fee. The number of prosecutions has risen from 164,444 in 2010 to 181,880 in 2012, Ministry of Justice figures show. With magistrates handling 1.48m cases in 2012, licence fee evasion accounts for 12% of their workload. These criminal cases are also dealt with en-bloc by the magistrates with a similar procedure to the “liability order” for the council tax. Very few fine defaulters attend court; if they do the magistrates can impose a proportionate fine, reduce or remit it, after seeing the evidence of statement of income, expenditure and all debts; here again many poor defaulters never learn about these procedures

3. Non payment of council tax is dealt with as a civil debt while non payment of TV licence is treated as a tax and dealt with as a criminal offence. The bailiffs may not forced entry into domestic premises to enforce council tax but they can to enforce the TV license  fine.

Very often the bailiff is the first person to discover that the late or non payer of council tax or TV license fine is impoverished, vulnerable, ill, disabled, have moved or it is a wrong address, or the debtor has died.

They are private companies who depend on the fees paid by the debtor or fine defaulter;they tend to enforce against all incomes whatever the evidence to get their fees . Council’s and the BBC are too often blind to the circumstances of vulnerable debtors.

4. The intimidation involved in enforcement of debts and fines, and the commitment of mothers to feeding their children before anything else, push the impoverished welfare claimants into the hands of  food banks, Wonga or Provident plc , and other doorstep lenders . The high interest further decreases the already inadequate incomes available for food and other necessities.

5. Utility bills , including water, also wreak their havoc on the reducing incomes of benefit claimants who can be unable to cook the food they collect from a food bank or keep themselves and their children warm.

Throughout the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Local Government Finance Act 2012 government was made fully aware of the link between debt and mental illness and warned that a consequence of forcing benefit claimants into rent and council tax arrears would be an increase in demand on the health service and social services. The link between debt and mental health problems has been fully reported to government by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Government Office for Science.

 There is a cost to the NHS, the schools, the courts service of poverty related ill health, education under achievement and of debts and hunger
CONCLUSION
There is an economic cost to the taxpayer of poverty related illness and educational underachievement but it never features in the budget as a cost the prevention of which should be reduced by the provision of adequate minimum incomes and affordable housing, to citizens in work and unemployment. The social cost in misery to the bottom 20% is not measured by the averages of the National Statistics “Happiness Index”.The TUC estimated in 2007 that reducing poverty could save the taxpayer £40bn a year from the health and education budgets, and increased GDP.

The conclusion of  the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2008 was  that child poverty costs the country at least £25 billion a year, including £17 billion that could accrue to the Exchequer if child poverty were eradicated. Moving all families above the poverty line would not instantly produce this sum. But in the long term, huge amounts would be  saved from not having to pick up the pieces of child poverty and associated social ills.
The cost of mental illness to the NHS/social services, employers and patients was £105bn in 2010 according to the Centre for Mental Health.
The rate of low birth weight is high in deprived areas of the UK is at great cost to maternity units. Maternal nutrition cannot be improved by food banks providing three days food. The turmoil of rent and council tax arrears, evictions and bailiffs now hitting the poorest citizens can only increase those costs.Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against PovertyLetter in The Guardian – 08/04/14Polly Toynbee (House building alone won’t end this ladder of insanity) is right to turn her fire on the chaotic UK housing market. The absence of definition of affordable housing is the black hole at the heart of every every policy to reduce poverty. That failure is destroying the viability of the living wage, and has already destroyed it for the national minimum wage and unemployment benefits in London and other metropolitan areas.Poverty can only be increased while central government allows the market to extract larger and larger amounts of rent and council tax, by threats of eviction and prison, out of the incomes needed for food, water, fuel, transport, clothes for growing children and other necessities. The poorest tenants in rent arrears will continue to be pushed from pillar to post by demented free market extremists in Westminster.The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported in May 2013 that in 2012 /13 Haringey has accepted 1833 households from other London boroughs, 1200 from Islington, and exported 1282 out of the borough, 1147 to Enfield. A total of 19,057 households had moved between boroughs in London . That included the impact of the coalitions local housing allowance caps on housing benefit in 2012/13; since April 2013 the bedroom tax , the £500 overall benefit cap and the council tax have been wreaking additional havoc . This is like pouring households into a giant kitchen mixer and expecting them not to get hurt.Rev Paul Nicolson
Tax Payers Against Poverty

Professor Danny Dorling has commented.

“A living wage is of little meaning without also having a living rent. Rents are current rising rapidly because they can be increased so easily. Thirty years of a completely free market in private renting has not resulted in good quality good value homes, or encouraged good landlords to build high quality housing for reasonable rents. Shelter’s proposal of rolling out 5 year tenancies within which rents cannot be greatly increased needs to be implemented now. On top of that tenants should be able to negotiate rent reductions if the property is not up to scratch. If decent tenants’ rights, and normal rents being affordable rents, work in Germany, why are they not good enough for people in the UK?”

Irrational level of benefits for Asylum Seekers set by Home Office – Judge Popplewell – what effect on UK citizens benefits?

Irrational level of benefits for Asylum Seekers set by Home Office – Judge Popplewell – what effect on UK citizens benefits?

This came in yesterday and seems relevant to the APPG on Food and Hunger.

Judge Popplewell decided on the 9th March, “The Secretary of State
(Home office), Theresa May, had wrongly failed to include the
following categories of essential living needs in setting the level of
cash support: essential household goods such as washing powder,
cleaning materials and disinfectant; nappies, formula milk and other
special requirements of new mothers, babies and very young children”.
in addition to food, water, utilities, transport, an clothes.

Refugee Action challenged the level of benefits paid to Asylum Seekers
while they are waiting a decision from the Home Office. They are 70%
of the benefits of UK citizens and have been increased by only 1%. The
judge decided that the Secretary of State had been “irrational” not to
include certain categories of essential living needs in their
benefits.

CORRECTION 11/04/14

I was wrong to say that asylum seekers get 70% of income support or that they had a 1% increase. They used to get 70% of income support originally but that link was “broken” in 2009 and a single adult now gets about 51% of income support, and the rates have not been increased at all since April 2011. Not by any percent. 

The very encouraging thing about Judge Popplewell’s decision is that it is the first time the details of what is required in a minimum budget have been taken seriously by anyone capable of deciding they should be taken into account when setting the level of minimum incomes. I have been working on minimum income standards since 1998.

I am glad that people seeking asylum are to be better treated; but the
question that leaps out of the judgment is what effect does it have on
the level of benefits paid to UK citizens? I am hoping ways can be
found to get counsel’s opinion.

The £71.70  single adult JSA a week has been inadequate for decades
and is reduced further by £24 bedroom tax and £5 council tax a week.
See this letter to The Guardian from Professor Jonathan Bradshaw. It
has been increased by only 70 pence this week due to the 1% freeze on
annual increases. That creates hunger. Inevitable poor maternal
nutrition has a devastating affect on the health of babies born to
women in such absolute poverty.

The following comment has come in from Donald Hirsch, who undertakes
Joseph Rowntree minimum incomes standards research it the Centre for
Research in Social Policy at Loughborough; he is cited in the Judgement.
.

“From what I understand, it turned on the government making arguments
about adequacy which were clearly irrational and false – such as that
just because not all items in the CPI food basket are essentials,
there was no need to take account of food price inflation in setting
benefit rates! This was so economically illiterate that it was
possible to demonstrate irrationality to the judge’s satisfaction. It
may not always be possible to find such clear-cut contradictions in
the government’s own arguments, but I find it enormously encouraging
that a judge is willing on this basis to rule that a benefit rate is
unlawful.”

Good wishes,

Paul

Summary of the judgment from the Migrants Law Project.

Following a hearing on 11 to 13 February 2014, Mr Justice Popplewell
handed down judgment on 9 April 2014. The judge granted Refugee
Action’s claim, finding that the Secretary of State’s decision had
been unlawful. The decision of June 2013 was quashed and the Secretary
of State was ordered to retake the decision as to the level at which
asylum support should be set, in accordance with the guidance
contained in the judgment.

The judge concluded that it was necessary for him only to consider the
first and third of Refugee Action’s grounds for review since this was
sufficient to require that the Secretary of State’s decision be
quashed.

Among the key elements of the judge’s reasoning were the following:

The Secretary of State had wrongly failed to include the following
categories of essential living needs in setting the level of cash
support: essential household goods such as washing powder, cleaning
materials and disinfectant; nappies, formula milk and other special
requirements of new mothers, babies and very young children;
non-prescription medication; and the opportunity to maintain
interpersonal relationships and a minimum level of participation in
social, cultural, and religious life.

The Secretary of State had also wrongly failed to consider whether the
following items were essential living needs: travel by public
transport to attend appointments with legal advisors, where this is
not covered by legal aid; and telephone calls to maintain contact with
families and legal representatives, and for necessary communication to
progress their asylum claims.

In assessing the sums necessary to meet essential living needs the
Secretary of State had made the following errors:

(a) she had taken into account the proposition that since 2007 the
level of cash support for adults and children had increased by 11.5%
whereas in fact for most adults it had decreased in absolute terms by
11%;

(b) she had failed to take account of the extent of the erosion of
rates in real terms over several years given inflationary price
pressures;

(c) she had misunderstood and misinterpreted Office of National
Statistics data on which she relied in support of the decision;

(d) she failed to take reasonable steps to gather sufficient
information to enable her to make a rational judgment in setting the
asylum support rates; and

(e) she misdirected herself in law as to her duties towards 16 and 17
year olds, and whether children within this age group are required to
attend full-time education.

Housing: the black hole at the heart of society – Guardian Letters – 08/04/14

Housing: the black hole at the heart of society – Guardian Letters – 08/04/14

Polly Toynbee (House building alone won’t end this ladder of insanity) is right to turn her fire on the chaotic UK housing market. The absence of definition of affordable housing is the black hole at the heart of every every policy to reduce poverty devised by the political parties . That failure is destroying the viability of the living wage, and has already destroyed it for the national minimum wage and unemployment benefits in London and other metropolitan areas.

Poverty can only be increased while central government allows the market to extract larger and larger amounts of rent and council tax, by threats of eviction and prison, out of the incomes needed for food, water, fuel, transport, clothes for growing children and other necessities. The poorest tenants in rent arrears will continue to be pushed from pillar to post by demented free market extremists in Westminster.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported in May 2013 that in 2012 /13 Haringey has accepted 1833 households from other London boroughs, 1200 from Islington, and exported 1282 out of the borough, 1147 to Enfield. A total of 19,057 households had moved between boroughs in London . That included the impact of the coalitions local housing allowance caps on housing benefit in 2012/13; since April 2013 the bedroom tax , the £500 overall benefit cap and the council tax have been wreaking additional havoc . This is like pouring households into a giant kitchen mixer and expecting them not to get hurt.

Rev Paul Nicolson

This link is to the Zacchaeus 2000 housing affordability standard which was put together by the late Professor Peter Ambrose. He presented it to the London Citizens mayoral assembly in 2008. It was accepted by all the candidates, including Boris Johnson before he was elected. Professor Danny Dorling has commented.

“A living wage is of little meaning without also having a living rent. Rents are current rising rapidly because they can be increased so easily. Thirty years of a completely free market in private renting has not resulted in good quality good value homes, or encouraged good landlords to build high quality housing for reasonable rents. Shelter’s proposal of rolling out 5 year tenancies within which rents cannot be greatly increased needs to be implemented now. On top of that tenants should be able to negotiate rent reductions if the property is not up to scratch. If decent tenants’ rights, and normal rents being affordable rents, work in Germany, why are they not good enough for people in the UK?”

http://www.taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Affordable-housing-on-LLW.pdf