Private landlords ‘to get £35bn in benefits’


11:45 am - October 22nd 2012

by Don Paskini    


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Three new research reports into housing, all with a common theme:

An analysis of official statistics for Labour MP Karen Buck has found that between 2011-12 and 2014-15 £35bn of housing benefit will be spent on private landlords, £13bn more than the previous three years…

Research by the National Housing Federation found that over 1 million people of working age will need housing benefit in order to be able to pay the rent by 2015…

Research by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations showed in the past ten years the cost of housing benefit spent on private tenants across the UK has increased 153 per cent, compared to a 21 per cent increase for council and housing association tenants.

In 2011/12, 40 per cent of the entire spend on housing benefit went to tenants of private landlords, despite the fact that two-thirds of the entire caseload is made up of social tenants, the report found.

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If you think that paying tens of billions in benefits to private landlords shouldn’t be a priority for taxpayers, or if you think that working people should earn enough to be able to pay the rent, then you might be interested in supporting the new ‘Yes to Homes’ campaign.

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Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


Was this not sort of the point of the last two governments (and now this one too) of not building council or other social homes for decades?

Force the poor into the hands of private landlords, and you ensure more money goes from the taxpayer, to the rich – instead of from the taxpayer to the taxpayer (which is apparently wasteful).

Yes.

What chance has a private tenant, not on Housing Benefit, got to rent a home at a reasonable price when the rental market is so inflated by this state subsidy?

Stroll on Universal Credit.

Hmm. A campaign from the National Housing Federation eh, the trade union for housing associations?

Might it not be simpler just to make planning permission easier to get, thus cutting the cost of housing?

4. Peter Stewert

#3
Giving credible rights to squatters will achieve much the something except we get to solve the housing crisis now rather than in a decade, and for once we legislate in favor of citizens rather than monied interests. Housing policy has spent too much time favoring feckless and work-shy landlords, and if we had MPs would not continue to keep getting ideas for scamming their housing allowances such as in the story over the weekend.

5. James from Durham

TimW, Is there any evidence that it is planning permission which is preventing the building of more houses?

“TimW, Is there any evidence that it is planning permission which is preventing the building of more houses?”

Is it the number or the price (affordability) that we’re worried about? I tend to think it’s the second. And there, yes, there is very good evidence that it’s the planning system at fault.

You can buy agricultural land in the SE of England for £10,000 a hectare. You’d put 10-15 houses on that. So call the land £1,000 per house. You can build a 3 bed house (without anything fancy like modular buildings etc) for £120, £130k, around there.

So, call cost of supply around £130k. But 3 bed houses in the SE of England cost £300k and up. The difference is the scarcity value of that planning permission.

Yes, this is a problem and yes, we could reduce that scarcity value by issuing more planning permissions.

7. Robin Levett

@pagar #2:

<blockquote.What chance has a private tenant, not on Housing Benefit, got to rent a home at a reasonable price when the rental market is so inflated by this state subsidy?

Got any figures to back up that assertion?

If you knew how HB worked (ha!), you would know that HB is currently a deflationary pressure; by limiting payment to the 30th percentile, down from the median rent, a 20% chunk of the market was taken out of eligibility for HB entirely, leaving only 30% eligible; and another swathe is in any event taken out by the refusal of large numbers of private landlords to accept HB tenants.

@Tim W #3:

Might it not be simpler just to make planning permission easier to get, thus cutting the cost of housing?

Is there any evidence from anyone not currently sitting on a huge landbank of consented property that this is a real, as opposed to a political, issue? One would have thought that if the bottleneck was planning, developers would gear up to get their developments built to recoup their investment as soon as possible after permission were given; but they don’t. Bovis in June 2012 have 7 years worth of consented plots at their current rates of building, and are adding consented plots at the same rate they build them out:

http://www.cnplus.co.uk/bovis-doubles-its-profits/8634570.article

Do you have any figures on the cost of keeping that consented land idle, as compared with the cost of getting the consents in the first place? Bovis reckon that their landbank is worth £574m gross profit – that’s a huge chunk of money to sit on for 7 years on average…

“Is there any evidence from anyone not currently sitting on a huge landbank of consented property that this is a real, as opposed to a political, issue?”

Err, the one group of people who would absolutely be against my idea are those who currently have a large stock of currently consented property. Because the value would fall, wouldn’t it?

Further, the evidence is there in those prices. Why does a house cost more than twice the land and build cost?

“Bovis in June 2012 have 7 years worth of consented plots at their current rates of building, and are adding consented plots at the same rate they build them out:”

How long does it take to get planning? It ain’t 3 months, that’s for sure. 3 years, 4 maybe? Add a bit of uncertainty and yes, I can see a building firm wanting stock of 1.5 times the time it takes to get planning. Better to have a bit too much stock rather than find you don’t get planning and you have to fire everybody for 6 months while you wait, eh?

” The difference is the scarcity value of that planning permission”

It’s also down to the difference in income locally, and in particular the amount of people who can have a spare 50-75k to invest in buy to let. The SE has large numbers of high income earners and the Housing Benefit system makes buy to let one of the safest long term investments possible – you really do have to be thick not to make money out of it.

Planning permission is essentially the same process whether you live in Winchester or Whitby, yet there is massive difference in house prices. Thus the far bigger factor is local income levels, spare cash floating around in the local economy and whether the area is a favoured place for second homes.

“Might it not be simpler just to make planning permission easier to get”

I’d really like to see you try and sell the idea of creating sprawling concrete housing estates on green belt land around the M25 – which is essentially what you would be doing. This is one of those ideas that looks good in the economics textbook, but is utterly inpractical to implement within the context of a democratic country. Not least when there are better and cheaper options.

“I’d really like to see you try and sell the idea of creating sprawling concrete housing estates on green belt land around the M25 – which is essentially what you would be doing. This is one of those ideas that looks good in the economics textbook, but is utterly inpractical to implement within the context of a democratic country. Not least when there are better and cheaper options.”

Err, we’re all arguing that more houses need to be built, right? And that if we build x (whatever x number is) to solve the problem then we are indeed going to have x more houses? How we get the x more houses built, whether it’s through making planning permission cheaper, or by building council houses, we are still going to have x more houses, yes?

Which do have to go somewhere? So what the hell does the financing method have to do with sprawl?

@ Robin

Got any figures to back up that assertion?

Don’t really need them. If the HB subsidy is NOT going to inflate prices in the rented sector of the housing market you have to tell me where it is going.

Put another way, if we eliminated HB tomorrow and many tenants had to leave their rented properties as they defaulted on their rents, would there be more or less supply of rented property? And would rent levels, and profits for buy to let landlords, go up or down?

From the NHF report.

It found that the future of our housing market is looking even bleaker, with both private rental and house prices forecast to rise sharply from 2015. Private rents are now increasing at a faster rate than house prices, and the knock-on cost to the taxpayer is rising as a result.

Despite Government efforts to tackle public debt, it is actually spending more on housing benefit. 417,830 more working people, an 86% increase since 2009, are now reliant on housing benefit to help them pay the rising rents on their home. And this is increasing as almost 10,000 more working people every month need housing benefit to help pay their rent.

“Err, we’re all arguing that more houses need to be built, right? And that if we build x (whatever x number is”

To some extent. But solving the housing problem also means looking at our existing stock and whether we are using it in an efficient manner. So we’d also be talking about bringing empty homes back into use, restricting second homes in places where there is a shortage of affordable homes, and reducing demand from buy to let (which keeps prices high). In a wider sense I’d also like to see a rebalancing of the economy to level out prices between regions that would also reduce the pressure to build in the south east.

As for where to build the new houses required, there should be a focus on re-using brownfield land where appropiate, and regenerating industrial wastelands. It is already easier to obtain planning permission to do this, but it is also more expensive to do. Relaxing planning permission for the green belt would simply mean developments focusing on the green belt at the expense of the above, meaning in reality is the option most likely to involve creating sprawling estates over greenbelt land.

The village I livein has put in plans to build 200 houses. Most of the villagers are in uproar. They don’t want it but many of the younger people do. It seems it won’t go ahead because the people in the know and power are swayed more by the antis. The same goes for the next village where there was plans to build 30 affordable homes but the majority rejected it, even though the land is infill. Again the younger people were for it because they want to stay in the village.
Most of the slow planning permissions up and down the country is down to objections from the public.

What was the housing benefit bill before we sold off the housing stock? It seems to me that IB was largely a ‘solution’ to a problem caused by selling of that stock, which was built because the provision of housing by the private sector was pisspoor. Nobody wants to build houses for people who cannot afford to buy them, who the fuck would build a house to sell it at a loss? Who would build a house to sell for thirty grand if they can sell the same house for a hundred and fifty? Easing planning restrictions will not encourage people to build houses at a loss, that is a ridiculous concept. All that will happen is when the price of housing drops, the land bankers will cease to build houses.

You know, it may surprise younger readers, but we didn’t actually build council housing in order to drag working class people from their palatial private sector homes and force them at gunpoint to live in State sector squalor. We built public sector houses because no one was building homes of a decent standard for the poor to live in. You can ‘free market’, this and ‘private sector’ that all you fucking want, but it was Labour and One Nation (take note Ed Miliband) Tory politicians that gave working class people their houses with inside toilets.

What we need is public sector houses, exempt from sale to tenants, for people who are unable to secure mortgages at reasonable rates and take them out of a highly corrosive system.

The folly of selling off council houses becomes bigger by the year. Remember the bullshit about how the owner would pay for it’s upkeep and therefore save the tax payer. But many of these properties have passed into the hands of private landlords who now rent them out to the poor and as if by magic the tax payer now pays the rent.

Council houses were sold off at about one third their market value, with the only regulation being that the owner had to keep the property for 3 years. Then they could sell it on. You knew it was a scam when spiv like tory MPs suddenly started to be the owners.

Oh and another myth was that ALL the people in these houses could not afford to buy a house for themselves. BULLSHIT. I know of many people who could have bought private, but couldn’t be bothered. Then the tories gave them a house for a bribe to vote tory. This was another example of the “something for nothing” society tory style. And 30 years on we as taxpayers are being fleeced again. The same thing is about to happen to our hospitals

strange to describe rent as ‘benefits’. I’m a private landlord, as it happens I don’t have any DSS tenants at the moment. If I did I wouldn’t see the payment of their rent as ‘benefits’ being paid to me. The government should build more houses, maybe some rent control is in order in certain London areas. Demonising private landlords doesn’t help with either of these issues.

6

Isn’t claiming HB about poor pay or unemployment, there are other remedies,- building more social housing, which as already been suggested, or a higher NMW. Those on very poor wages, the disabled and the unemployed are never going to have the ability to buy a house however many are built.
16
A rose by any other name.

16 “If I did I wouldn’t see the payment of their rent as ‘benefits’ being paid to me”

Then you are a blithering idiot . Landlords and B&B owners who take govt money are welfare scroungers in my book. But it is all part of the new ideology……’socialism for the rich.”

Bankers, train operators, landlords, and soon to be hospitals and schools all living like welfare queens off the state.

@14. Jim: “You know, it may surprise younger readers, but we didn’t actually build council housing in order to drag working class people from their palatial private sector homes and force them at gunpoint to live in State sector squalor. We built public sector houses because no one was building homes of a decent standard for the poor to live in.”

That’s spot on, Jim. The other thing to remember is that in the years after 1945, there were few new homes. The UK economy continued to operate on wartime lines, with controls on access to building materials and land. Consequently, most new homes were built and provided by local councils. Wartime rules ended sometime in the 1950s just before Harold Macmillan got into his stride.

Aerial maps of the UK show the massive post 1945 construction of housing. Social housing built at the time was *almost* as good as private developments, occasionally better. As a council house kid of the 1960s and 1970s, I know that they were magical places. My three bed room home had to be magical to accommodate six kids and two adults. I don’t recall that anyone asked to stop over, so they missed out on our incredible Sunday breakfasts.

What my parents sought was to own their own property. Family rented a house from the council and my Dad leased a plot of land which grew the tomatoes that paid for my Christmas presents. I literally picked for my Christmas presents. Working in greenhouses assembled the capital to buy a house and, shock horror, I was a child labourer.

I know that a 1945-ish council house is similar to the private house of 1945-ish. I live in a pleasant private one now with (safe) original fittings.

Today, it is not cheap to build a house but it is not ludicrously expensive. As Tim Worstall has written, it is the land price that compromises development.

Possibly, Jim, you have not time for Tim Worstall’s politics which is your choice. I suggest that you give him more space and ask questions about land valuation.

Pagar:

Without this state subsidy, what would happen, though?

Well, the overall average price of housing wouldn’t fall all that much. That’s because housing benefit itself isn’t a big proportion of the total money being spent on housing (by everyone). The rental market is fairly flexible – if 30% of the money disappears out of the benefit renting market, landlords aren’t going to reduce their prices by 30%, unless they’re morons. They can avoid that loss by refurbishing and redeveloping to cater to a different market.

Overall, what will happen is that the distribution of ability to pay rent among the population will become more polarised. The market will shift upwards – that is, a landlord will find there is more money in knocking two small flats together and renting one larger one designed with more space per person (hey, take a look at the typical redevelopment in an affluent area right now – and you’ll very often find they’re doing just that).

So, just as you’d expect when you suddenly let loose the general level of inequality in society onto the housing market, you get more space per person for the wealthy, less space per person for the poor.

I’m not saying pumping housing benefit into the private rental market is good policy, just that it’s probably less bad for society than not doing so. There are other ideas (such as rent controls, a land value tax or simply building council housing) which are probably less flawed and less expensive, but these are apparently considered the preserve of crazed extremists.

21. So Much for Subtlety

14. Jim

Nobody wants to build houses for people who cannot afford to buy them, who the fuck would build a house to sell it at a loss? Who would build a house to sell for thirty grand if they can sell the same house for a hundred and fifty?

True. But in an actual market people don’t have a choice. They sell the homes for what they are worth.

Easing planning restrictions will not encourage people to build houses at a loss, that is a ridiculous concept.

And a strawman. As no one has suggested that will happen. Planning permissions push up the cost of housing. Reduce it and houses will be built cheaply. Or cheaper anyway. Not at a loss.

You know, it may surprise younger readers, but we didn’t actually build council housing in order to drag working class people from their palatial private sector homes and force them at gunpoint to live in State sector squalor. We built public sector houses because no one was building homes of a decent standard for the poor to live in. You can ‘free market’, this and ‘private sector’ that all you fucking want, but it was Labour and One Nation (take note Ed Miliband) Tory politicians that gave working class people their houses with inside toilets.

This is nonsense. Not merely nonsense but nonsense on stilts. We built public sector housing because the government put in all sorts of restrictions and then deemed the private sector was not building fast enough. In their enthusiasm and innocence, they thought they could build faster. So they took over housing from the private sector. And did not manage to build as many houses in any one year from then until now as the private sector did in the last year before the government got involved. They also built many of poorer quality – pre-fabs after the War for instance. So they built fewer homes and most of worse quality. And then turned them over to the ferals so we get the Mad Max world that is the modern British council estate. The State failed in every respect.

If we have indoor plumbing, it is not because of the State but because the economy grew and everyone became richer.

Charlieman @ 19

The post war housing was not, by any means perfect, I know and accept that. Sure there were mistakes, but by and large, people where provided with a decent house for the first time in their, or their ancestors, lives. These houses and gardens were looked after with great love and affection at the time.

Poor housing in this Country was not restricted to the post war period, nor was it restricted to this Country either. We have had slums since we had urbanisation, like every other urban culture.

We do not need to speculate to what happens when we deregulate the market, the evidence is written in our past and in every major city on the planet. No one is seriously telling me that the World’s shantytowns, squatter camps and favellas are he result of tight regulation or State interference in otherwise perfect markets.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Highbury JD

“strange to describe rent as ‘benefits’. I’m a private landlord, as it happens I don’t have any DSS tenants at the moment. If I did I wouldn’t see the payment of their rent as ‘benefits’ being paid to me.”

Agreed. By that definition nearly every shopkeeper in the land is a “benefit claimant” because some of their customers will be paid benefits.

“Demonising private landlords doesn’t help with either of these issues.”

Yeah, landlords seem to be joining the long list of people that lazy, grumpy types love to hate. Lawyers, bankers, parking attendants etc. etc.

21 the usual free market clap trap.

“The state failed in every respect”

Except it didn’t. It managed to put a roof over peoples heads at a fraction of the price we now pay in subsidizing the private spiv landlord. Then the tories sold off this housing at a third of it’s value. It is a big mistake to assume all council housing was grey tower blocks. A lot of it was good quality 3 bed semis with large gardens, and good sized rooms. Certainly bigger rooms and gardens than you will get from modern “toy town” houses. In many show houses they have 3 quarter sized furniture to hide how small the dimensions.

The ” free market ” fetishists can bang on about planning and land prices. But the NIMBY culture shows that the pure free market is for university midnight debating societies. Look at Trump and his golf course in Scotland. He rode roughshod over the views of the local people. Overturning the planning restrictions, and keeping the politicians in Edinburgh sweet. No doubt he would lord this as free market in action. And yet, and yet the same free market Trump wants now to be a Nimby and stop a wind farm being built in view of his golf course.

Todays free market hero, tomorrow’s NIMBY in action. Or put another way, free markets for me, but not for thee.

Well said Chaise. Of course private landlords aren’t “benefit claimants”, and saying so achieves nothing.

However, there is a big problem here, and with the housing market in general. Sadly, the current government appear as un-interested as the previous one (though MP’s have had to some thinking on the subject in the wake of changes to their expense arrangements).

The big problem is the unsatisfactory transfer of wealth upwards.

Example: assume a family of 4 requiring HB in full due to redundancy (and assume their situation remains static: I know this wouldn’t happen in reality, but they would be replaced by people in the same situation).

a) They need a house.
b) A private landlord has bought a new one, with a mortgage, and rents it to the family.
c) HB pays the rent (ie we all contribute through taxes).
d) The landlord probably won’t make much due to mortgage payments and upkeep, however, at the end of the mortage period he/she now owns the property (say 200,000).
e) There would have been little risk involved for the landlord as the payments were regular and state-guaranteed. The loan would have come from a bank (possibly state-owned), and the money provided by the tax payer. The landlord only needed to provide evidence that they were a decent credit risk.
f) After 25 years, the HB payments continue.

The good news is that value has been created. The bad news is that the main investors (the tax payers) see no return.

In this situation, it would have been better for the state to have taken the loan. In this way, at the end of 25 years, the state would own the house, and future HB payments would be recovered by the state.

Two further points:

1) Selling council houses did not cause this problem (and in fact, selling enabled the less well-off to benefit from housing investment). The failure to react to changing demand did, and we’re still not building enough.

2) There is a log-jam in the house-building market. We need, and there is demand for, more housing. But, house-builders won’t build unless they can get the right price. Land held will have a book value, and funding will be linked to it. If the government were to drive down land prices, as it needs to do, then builders (and their workers) could be highly vulnerable.

Given that successive governments have failed to manage the housing market, and have hugely contributed to the problems within it, this would seem a valid case for government intervention and temporary subsidy (ie through compensating builders for the loss of book value required).

The housing market is too far gone to correct itself.

There is also a solution to the NIMBY problem.

Building a new estate on the edge of a beautiful and unspoilt village is bound to cause offence and protest, as well as spoiling views, etc etc.

The solution is this: Don’t. F-cking. Build. It. There.

Go to the nearest town, pick one of the under-used and under-developed grotty bits that are absolutely crying out for investment and build it there instead.

If the town has no grotty bits that would be significantly improved by building …. no, let’s keep it realistic.

28. Man on Clapham Omnibus

As a private landlord I am very grateful to the Government but rather than take offence at our business maybe someone should reflect on the fact that 5% of the pollution own 95%
of UK land. Don’t bother looking at the land registry for who owns what, because the information isn’t in there. Maybe if that particular inequality is addressed (Does Charles really need the whole of Cornwall?) then maybe there will be less management(manipulation) of the existing land stock for profit.
In the meantime may I take this opportunity to thank all the current tenants and all the previous ones,too poor to pay up,for their generosity.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 Jack C

“Building a new estate on the edge of a beautiful and unspoilt village is bound to cause offence and protest, as well as spoiling views, etc etc.

The solution is this: Don’t. F-cking. Build. It. There.

Go to the nearest town, pick one of the under-used and under-developed grotty bits that are absolutely crying out for investment and build it there instead.”

I’m with you on principle, but the latter solution sounds like it would involve knocking down existing homes. Which is doable but adds major headaches to the operation.

Jack c you are a deluded fool. You say this……

” Of course private landlords aren’t “benefit claimants”, and saying so achieves nothing.” Yes they are. Welfare queens living off the hog of the state. You may not like people saying it, but tough it needs to be said. It is true.

You then say this……..” The big problem is the unsatisfactory transfer of wealth upwards.” Yes, very true, but then you make my argument for me. Paying well off middle class and rich landlords billions of housing benefit is making the rich even richer. Socialism for the rich.

” There is also a solution to the NIMBY problem.Building a new estate on the edge of a beautiful and unspoilt village is bound to cause offence and protest, as well as spoiling views, etc etc.The solution is this: Don’t. F-cking. Build. It. There.”

You really are a special type of moron. You support NIMBYS, you support lanlords living off the state, and you think selling off council houses was a great idea. Yet you think tge problem is the gap between rich and poor. But you are too deluded to see the idiotic policies you support have created this mess.

You remind me of Thatchers environmental secretary Nick Ridley. Like you he was a sanctimonious hypocrite. Lecturing about the free market,until someone wanted to build some new houses at the bottom of his garden just outside Cheltenham. Up in arms he was, and as secretary of state he got that bit of free market enterprise killed off. Free market for me but not for thee. NIMBYS for me, but not for thee seems to be your philosophy. Typical tory hypocrisy.

” it would have been better for the state to have taken the loan. In this way, at the end of 25 years, the state would own the house, and future HB payments would be recovered by the state.”

Which in effect they did when they built council houses, but they were flogged off at a fraction of their market value. Something you think was a wonderful idea. Your arguments completely contradictory.

” As a private landlord I am very grateful to the Government but rather than take offence at our business maybe someone should reflect on the fact that 5% of the pollution own 95%”

Your business as you call it is nothing more than scrounging off the state. Welfare for the better off is all the rage. Your point about the small ownership of 95% of land is a valid one, however. Same too of farming. 75% of all land is given over to agriculture of some form. Seeing as this industry employs less than 1% of the population, and accounts for a small part of GDP this is a disgrace. But then noting is likely to be done when our future king is a major culprit, and lobbies hard to protect his interests and his farming mates. Not that you will allowed to see his lobbying thanks to this tory landowning govt.

Sally,
There are too many errors in your insults. Please apply a little less venom and a little more thought.

Thanks xx

Chaise,
I can think of various sites in my own town that just need clearing and levelling. These don’t have homes, just the odd redundant warehouse etc.

This would entail more work than a green field, but the arguments will be shorter that’s for sure. In addition, new accommodation could be higher, and denser (ie flats in particular), so the hassle per sq foot would probably be less.

Living in the sticks isn’t a practical proposition for many people anyway, and young people almost always prefer to be near a town centre.

By the way Chaise,
Whilst you are a mere “concern troll”, I am a “special type of moron”.

So there.

35. Chaise Guevara

@ 33 Jack C

“I can think of various sites in my own town that just need clearing and levelling. These don’t have homes, just the odd redundant warehouse etc. ”

Ah. Well, that sort of rejuvenation is great; I’m all for it. Do it right and you might convince locals that your project will raise their house prices rather than lowering them.

Offhand, the only objections I’d expect you to get would be (depending on location) additional traffic burden, and noise during building. Plus of course some whinging from those people with too much time on their hands who complain about everything because they’re powered entirely by spite.

“Living in the sticks isn’t a practical proposition for many people anyway, and young people almost always prefer to be near a town centre.”

Agreed, urban projects are more useful. If you did want to build rural homes, you’d be better off picking a new site rather than colonising the other side of a village green, anyway.

“By the way Chaise,
Whilst you are a mere “concern troll”, I am a “special type of moron”.

So there.”

Curses! Even if I have to be one of the baddies, I object to being a minion!

CG @ 23

Agreed. By that definition nearly every shopkeeper in the land is a “benefit claimant” because some of their customers will be paid benefits.

Yeah, your are correct because that is exactly how the situation is. No shopkeeper (or any other business for that matter) can distinguish between a pound earned from a member of the private sector and pound that has gotten into the pockets of the recipients via the State. Next time you are in Tesco, see if you can find a ‘private sector’ or ‘State subsidy’ till. You won’t, because for Tesco et al cash is cash. You hear many a CEO decrying ‘benefit culture’ all right, but why not check the the wage slips of your customers as they go in to see who is spending ‘their own’ money and refusing entry to claiments?

That grubby little cunt at wonga is certainly not above taking the benefit shilling, despite telling the Tories that a way of promoting self reliance is to cut benefits and hardship payments. Can anyone think of a reason why someone charging forty gazillion percent interest would tell the government to cut hardship loans out of the benefit system?

When somebody solemnly announces that ‘they’ should cut benefits for whoever, then that someone should perhaps be aware of the effect that will have own their own pockets. People ‘see’ money going to the disabled, single mothers the unemployed of even public sector pensions and assume that is the end of the equation. Of course, it is only the start of the process. That money is not just thrown onto a bonfire, is it? It is spent hundreds of times in hundreds of ways and keeps millions of people in work. The ‘social security’ budget is around £150 billion a year. You would be hard pressed to spend that type of money without creating a single private sector job. I wonder how many jobs have been lost by cutting benefits in the last couple of years?

Who do you think ‘social security’ was designed to secure? The guy getting £65 a week or the shop ‘earning’ a couple of grand from all those £65 floating about?

You want to put the shitters up these cunts? Apply the benefits cap to every shop in the Country.

37. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim

“When somebody solemnly announces that ‘they’ should cut benefits for whoever, then that someone should perhaps be aware of the effect that will have own their own pockets.”

I fully agree that shopkeepers benefit indirectly with benefit payments to other people, but let’s not conflate that into saying that they are benefit claimants. Shopkeepers provide goods or services: that’s where they make their money, regardless of how said money got into their customers’ pockets.

For a start, you’re counting each benefit payment multiple times here.

“Who do you think ‘social security’ was designed to secure? The guy getting £65 a week or the shop ‘earning’ a couple of grand from all those £65 floating about?”

The former, actually.

“You want to put the shitters up these cunts? Apply the benefits cap to every shop in the Country.”

See, this is why we shouldn’t conflate things. If you’re talking about unemployment benefits, shopkeepers don’t get them (on account of being employed or self-employed), so your benefit cap would have no effect.

38. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@31 Sally

Your business as you call it is nothing more than scrounging off the state.

Not really. I am trying get them all out because the squeezed middle are better payers and the don’t leave the flats in an awful mess when they leave. As soon as I evict all the benefit scroungers many of whom have jobs on the side I will no longer be ‘scrounging off the state’ as you call it

39. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@37 Chaise

“You want to put the shitters up these cunts?

I have absolutely no idea what this phase means! What does it mean?

Chaise,
“Do it right and you might convince locals that your project will raise their house prices”

A good point. However, I’d rather see a national change of heart regarding house prices. Increases above the level of wage inflation should be seen as a bad thing (like with bread, milk etc).

I’m a homeowner, but also have children. Any increase in house prices means an increase for the next generation, so where’s the benefit? It doesn’t come to me, because I still have the same house, and will continue to need one.

Well said Jim. These private business men who rail against state handouts don’t complain when that money finds it’s way into their pockets. If they feel so strongly they should turn away £s that come from the state. But, no, they don’t refuse.

I agree also about wonga. Legalised theft is a better name for it. And of course backed by the same scumbag politicians who are also living it up on the states teat. Drinking in state subsidised bars, and all the other perks. The govt now backs loan sharks. I suppose the only good think about all this is that it is an admission by the Right that Keynesian economics works. The state pumping money into the economy. Trouble is it is going to the wrong people. Socialism for the rich.

Shorter Jack C at 32………….” I got nothing.”

GC @ 37

Shopkeepers provide goods or services

These goods and services only have value because their customers have money, and in some cases their customers only have money because the government gives them money for being unemployed/disabled/old. That amounts to a direct subsidy from the social security budget, no matter how you look at it.

See, this is why we shouldn’t conflate things. If you’re talking about unemployment benefits, shopkeepers don’t get them (on account of being employed or self-employed), so your benefit cap would have no effect

So what do the unemployed do with these benefits if not spend it in shops, or ensure it gets spent in shops pretty quickly? When does ‘evil dole money’ become ‘fruits of free market enterprise’ money? If the unemployed had no income, then the shop keeper would have less income as well. The problem being that the unemployed guy would lose £65, but if that shopkeeper (or shopkeepers) lose twenty customer’s worth of benefits that amounts to a loss of £1300 quid a week. Being realistic about this, if you live in a smallish village of say 3000 people or working age with unemployment counted at 10% that is a hefty amount of money you and your competitors are chasing. So, be careful demanding that ‘scroungers’ and/or public sector employees be shorn of their income because their income is your income and your income dwarves their income (ultimately from the same source) by a considerable margin.

“A good point. However, I’d rather see a national change of heart regarding house prices. Increases above the level of wage inflation should be seen as a bad thing (like with bread, milk etc).”

Well said Jack – and you’ve been spot on throughout the thread.

There was a piece of work Shelter did recently where they took house price inflation and applied it to other household items. A chicken would be £47.51.
(http://england.shelter.org.uk/news/previous_years/2010/february_2010/weekly_grocery_bill_of_420)

I also wonder what the economic performance of the UK would have been if equity release fuelled consumption was taken out of the picture – I suspect we’d have spent a decade without growth.

Also worth noting that one of Chancellor Osborne’s first budgets was to exempt stamp duty on Private Landlords buying up over 5 houses a year. They now pay just the average of the purchases. So another nice tax cut for the rich.

And as more houses and flats pass into the ownership of private landlords it helps to keep prices higher, because of a shortage of supply. It’s a win win for the landlord. Tax payer pays his mortgage, he pays little stamp duty, and the price of his asset is kept high. Ensuring that more people will be unable to buy a house, and have to become a tenet. It is a vicious circle of doom.

Fascinating how the tories boasted about home ownership in the 80s, only to begin it’s destruction in the 90’s with the pushing of short term tenancy and buy to let.

Seeing as the govt likes handing free money to rich bankers and private landlords perhaps they could buy everyone a house.

45. Chaise Guevara

@ 39 MoCO

“I have absolutely no idea what this phase means! What does it mean?”

No idea – and I’m slightly alarmed by the prospect of finding out..

46. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim

“These goods and services only have value because their customers have money, and in some cases their customers only have money because the government gives them money for being unemployed/disabled/old. That amounts to a direct subsidy from the social security budget, no matter how you look at it.”

No it doesn’t. It amounts to an indirect subsidy. We should certainly point out that many people who don’t receive benefits still do well out of them, but we shouldn’t try to make out that the government is directly paying benefits to those people.

“So what do the unemployed do with these benefits if not spend it in shops, or ensure it gets spent in shops pretty quickly?”

We’ve already agreed on this point.

“When does ‘evil dole money’ become ‘fruits of free market enterprise’ money?”

Ask someone who talks about “evil dole money”.

The point you’re missing is that your benefits cap on shopkeepers would do nothing as shopkeepers do not in fact receive benefits*. So you can set your cap and the shopkeepers will stay under it at £0.

Or are you seriously suggesting a cap on profiting indirectly from benefits? How the hell would you measure and enforce that? What purpose would it serve, other than harming businesses and infringing on the freedom of benefit claimants? You’d create a system where a claimant would go to buy food late in the month, when all the shops had hit their quota, and be refused. Why do you want that to happen?

Or was the “benefits cap for shops” thing just silly rhetoric?

Also worth mentioning: some shops presumably suffer due to benefits (I’d hazard a guess that the system moves money away from M&S and towards H&M), and I assume that not all shopkeepers fit into your caricatured portrait of them as selfish right-wingers, so I don’t know why you’re so bent on making them another hate group, like bankers and traffic wardens.

*Well, obviously some will get child benefits and the like, but that’s not what we’re discussing here.

47. Chaise Guevara

@ 40 Jack C

” However, I’d rather see a national change of heart regarding house prices. Increases above the level of wage inflation should be seen as a bad thing (like with bread, milk etc).”

Agreed. It annoys me when papers present falling house prices as a bad thing.

CG ‘ 46

The point you’re missing is that your benefits cap on shopkeepers would do nothing as shopkeepers do not in fact receive benefits*.

Just because it isn’t ‘called’ benefits, doesn’t mean it isn’t a benefit. When the money goes into the bank account of the claiment, we call it ‘benefit’, when the claiment withdraws the money from his account, we would still call it ‘benefit money’ and when he walks into the shop, he is carrying stuff bought by benefits. When does his purchases cease to be tainted with the term ‘benefit’?

For the shopkeeper, as soon as he puts the money in the till it ceases to be ‘benefit money’ and becomes ‘turnover’. Why? What is so important about that till that it takes the taint of ‘benefit’ from the ten pound notes? That ten pound note is only in the till because a benefit claiment was given that money via the State, who collected it from other taxpayers (including the shopkeeper). That shop is being kept afloat via State intervention in the labour market. The fact that he happens to receive that tennor from an unemployed person rather than a State employee makes no real difference.

Has that shopkeeper got a car, a house and a holiday plus a whole lot more from the benefit system? Take away all the bullshit and the answer is a rather huge yes. Has he got more out of the system than your average dole punter? Yes, he has. However, he gets to call himself a small businessman even though he is selling goods to people who cannot afford to buy them under ‘normal’ circumstances.

49. Chaise Guevara

@ 48 Jim

“Just because it isn’t ‘called’ benefits, doesn’t mean it isn’t a benefit. When the money goes into the bank account of the claiment, we call it ‘benefit’, when the claiment withdraws the money from his account, we would still call it ‘benefit money’ and when he walks into the shop, he is carrying stuff bought by benefits. When does his purchases cease to be tainted with the term ‘benefit’?”

Again, I don’t know where this loaded terminology comes from. I don’t see benefit as a “taint” and I doubt you do either.

I would say it stops being benefit money once it’s transferred to another shopkeeper. But it’s a weird question – it’s not like the government can stop the claimant in the street and demand he hand the money over. Money is money. It’s only a “benefit” when paid into someone’s account.

There’s no way to track this, anyway. Say the customer has £50 in his account, gets paid £30 in benefits, then withdraws £40. How much of that is benefit money in your eyes? £30? None of it? There’s no way to make that distinction.

“For the shopkeeper, as soon as he puts the money in the till it ceases to be ‘benefit money’ and becomes ‘turnover’. Why?”

Because it’s been acquired in exchange for goods. It’s “business money” or something.

“Has that shopkeeper got a car, a house and a holiday plus a whole lot more from the benefit system? Take away all the bullshit and the answer is a rather huge yes.”

Depends on the shop, doesn’t it?

“Has he got more out of the system than your average dole punter? Yes, he has.”

Maybe so, but he’s made an exchange for it.

“However, he gets to call himself a small businessman even though he is selling goods to people who cannot afford to buy them under ‘normal’ circumstances.”

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. I assume it’s a random swipe at your new favourite hate figures.

You have completely ignored my questions about how your proposed system would work, up to and including whether or not you’re even serious about it. You haven’t even justified (or explained away) the fact that this could easily end up taking food out of vulnerable people’s mouths. Shall I assume that you don’t actually have a system in mind, but are instead taking a long time to make a rhetorical point?

Jim,
I don’t know what you’re getting at either.

1) The shopkeeper would only be benefiting from this “tainted” money if the amount received (less the cost of providing services) was greater than the amount the shopkeeper paid in tax.

2) I wouldn’t always or often call this “benefit” money anyway (not that I see “benefit” as a derogatory term). Jobseeker’s Allowance, for example, is just a payment from the insurance scheme we all pay into. It’s a bona fide entitlement, and just “money”.

51. Chaise Guevara

@ 50 Jack C

Good point on (2), hadn’t thought of that.

Regarding (1), another point of mine that Jim has merrily skipped over is that presumably many shops lose out from benefit payments, even if you’re only talking about the revenue lost due to their customers being taxed (i.e. ignoring taxes paid by the shop itself). Basically I expect that shops selling at mid-range prices suffer while low-end places benefit. M&S probably makes a loss on the deal, for example.

@43, thanks, and thanks for the link.

My “anecdotal” recollection of the boom years is that many things became easier to buy (particularly gadgets, clothes and eating out), whilst real wealth was declining (future pensions and property ownership).

We did well from cheaply produced goods, easy (borrowed) money and government over-spending. I’m not sure we actually “deserved” the rise in living standards that occurred. The problem is that we had it, so do miss it.

@51
Chaise, you’re probably right. I certainly right that simply creating new “hate” figures won’t solve anything.

We might end up blaming it all on the Jews again.

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 53 Jack C

Even if we limit it to professions, it’s not good. If someone down the pub tells me they’re a banker or shopkeeper, that’s no sane reason for me to instantly dislike them.

I mean, there are probably SOME professions that mark you as a near-definite bad guy, like loan sharks. But they’re few and far between, and this kind of shit is just scapegoating and brush-tarring. I’m not having it.

“I mean, there are probably SOME professions that mark you as a near-definite bad guy, like loan sharks.”

Try this:

Estate agents and politicians among least trusted professions
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5085369/Estate-agents-and-politicians-among-least-trusted-professions.html

In the last Parliament, more than half of the MPs were found guilty of over-claiming on their parliamentary expenses.

@54:
Btw, and I hope you guessed, when I typed “I certainly right”, I meant “You’re certainly right”.

As for “bad” professions, we need to avoid moralising for sure. We can’t all be doing something Godly whilst paying the rent.

A reasonable definition for a decent profession might be: “Operates within the law, and delivers what it promises”

I accept this would clear Wonga, but this should make us tackle the reason they exist, or the laws under which they operate.

MP’s would not do so well: they haven’t stuck to laws, and I’m certain that under-performance can be proved on non-party political grounds.

Housing is a good example, as a massive chunk of both our human needs, and our personal wealth and expenditure. What is the coalition’s policy? Does it have one? What about Labour? Aside from their own arrangements, I see nothing.

CG @ 49

Whether or not you could actually accurately calculate the subsidy that any given shop is by the by, you are missing the point. The point is that shop keeper is receiving a subsidy from the welfare system. It might not be as easy to calculate that subsidy, however, that does not mean that the subsidy does not occur, does it?

When political Parties, Newspapers etc pontificate about the cost of the Welfare State being ‘unsustainable’ for example, they and their supporters/readers assume that the beneficiaries of the Welfare State are lapping up this huge amount of money and that is the end of it.

What if we actually followed the money? What if, instead of stigmatising and scapegoating people who have fallen out of work for whatever reason, we actually looked at the people who benefit from the huge Welfare State bill? The Welfare State costs the taxpayer about 150 billion quid, how many ‘private sector’ jobs does that sustain? How many private landlords does that feather bed? It is often reported that ‘hate figures’ of one description or other receive ‘housing benefit’ of a million quid or whatever the Daily Mail write, but they never see that money. They get a roof over their head, the people who get that huge amount of money are the poeople who own the house.

Same with that shop in an unemployment blackspot. Sure ‘single mother’ gets a couple of quid from the social, but who actually benefits from her (and her communities) income?

What if we audited every corner shop in the Country? What if we worked out how much subsidy your local shop gets through the Welfare State? If a benefit cap is such a good idea, in principle, because , then surely nobody should be allowed to benefit from more the benefit cap? Should you be able to afford a new car every free years thanks to welfare state? A holiday?

58. Chaise Guevara

@ 57 Jim

I don’t deny that there’s an indirect subsidy, and nor do I deny that it’s a good idea to make people more aware of it. I’m sure you’re right that a lot of anti-welfare people don’t think about the fact that welfare is re-invested into society, and no doubt a few anti-welfare people would experience hubris should all benefits be cancelled, finding that their business relied on the very system they deplored. But it remains the fact that benefiting indirectly and incidentally from other people’s benefits is not the same as receiving them yourself.

“If a benefit cap is such a good idea, in principle, because , then surely nobody should be allowed to benefit from more the benefit cap?”

The people who think a cap is a good idea believe this for one or both of these reasons:

1) They think benefit claimants sit around all day leeching off the state.
2) They think too much benefit leads previously capable people to develop the above attitude.
3) They think that the benefits burden is too high.

I won’t comment, for the moment, on how valid any of those are. But none of them apply to people who benefit indirectly. They work for their money, regardless of where it comes from*, which takes care of points 1 and 2. And they’re not costing the state anything, because the cost is accounted for when the benefits are paid to the claimant.

If a claimant gets £65 a week, and he spends that at local shops, you could very well argue that the shops together get a £65 indirect subsidy from the government (although that would fail to take into account the fact that some of those benefits are paid by the shops’ taxes). But it doesn’t stack. The claimant and the shops do not add together to cost the state £130.

*Obviously some people DO sit on their arse all day and make money, because they own enough stuff that they can just let their money work for them. But that’s capitalism for you, and I think it’s outside of our remit here.

I agree with Karen Buck’s view that we are talking about a welfare state for landlords – the second highest welfare benefit payment after old age pensions is housing benefit. HB was created in 1987, a year before rent control was scrapped on 15 January 1989 under the Housing Act 1988. Advocates of the free market at the time claimed that scrapping rent controls would cause rents to fall. In fact human nature being what it is, landlords increased rents scenting state backed money, and housing benefit has gone from £ 1 billion to £22 billion. Certain companies favoured by the Government such as Capita also get rich out of this, supposedly administering HB for certain local authorities.
Twenty three years on from the scrapping of rent controls, rents are still rising becuase foreign investors can also profit from this and are buying up as much of London as they can. So foreign and ex-patriate landlords are enriching themselves on the British welfare state tax free, with housing benefit going to the already wealthy abroad as ultimate recipients.It is also keeping house prices high in this country, and depriving many of the most educated generation in history from owning their own home.

I defend tenants in repossession hearings in the County Courts in London and one rarely sees landlords in person as so many are resident abroad.Unfortunately, on raising this with politicians in the three main parties,there is a curious urge to maintain the status quo and not alter this state of affairs oreven discuss it. Most people outside Parliament understand the lunacy of wasting welfare money in this way by effectively exporting it abroad. Only the party politically committed want to avoid discussion of this – the interesting question is why?

@ Jack C #27
The Attlee government introduced planning restrictions that included a limit on density, as well as stating you can’t build houses on land zoned for industry and vice-versa so you cannot just pull down some grotty empty factories and build a lovely new housing estate for 10,000 people. That is why building tower blocks actually reduced the number of people living in London.
So good idea, and I wish we could do it, but …
@ Charlieman #19
MacMillan made his name by raising the rate of housebuilding to over 300,000 pa (from less than 200,000 including prefabs) largely by scrapping those controls.

I would abolish the Council Tax rebate on second homes. Not going to make all that much difference to housing suppl but every little helps and it would ease the pressure on council budgets.

61. Robin Levett

@Alan Murdie #59:

I don’t know whether anyone’s till listening, but there are so many things wrong with this comment that it will take longer than I have available to do it justice. The first comment to make is that benefits covering rent were not introduced in 1987. More will follow.

62. Robin Levett

@Alan Murdie #59:

I agree with Karen Buck’s view that we are talking about a welfare state for landlords – the second highest welfare benefit payment after old age pensions is housing benefit. HB was created in 1987, a year before rent control was scrapped on 15 January 1989 under the Housing Act 1988.

HB was introduced in 1982 by the Social Security and Housing Benefit Act 1982, and ran alongside rent support within SB until 1988, when all rent assistance was moved to HB.

On 15 January 1989, rent control changed. Prior to that date, under the Rent Acts, fair rents could be registered for properties on application by landlord or tenant; once registered, the landlord couldn’t charge above the fair rent. The landlord couldn’t increase a rent without giving the tenant notice of his entitlement to apply for registration of a fair rent.

After 14 January 1989, assured shorthold tenants retained the right to seek registration of a rent limiting the rent recoverable; the rent was assessed at assured tenancy levels, taking no account of any increase arising from scarcity of accommodation.

Assured tenants had no initial protection; they did however have some protection against rent rises.

Advocates of the free market at the time claimed that scrapping rent controls would cause rents to fall.

I was around at the time; I didn’t hear anyone make that spectacularly counter-intuitive claim.

In fact human nature being what it is, landlords increased rents scenting state backed money, and housing benefit has gone from £ 1 billion to £22 billion.

I’ve seen figures ranging from £3.8bn to £5.7bn in 1986-7; retail prices have increased by 140% since then, so if the HB bill had increased solely by RPI, it would now be £9.12-13.68bn. But house prices have increased by a hair off 260% (or so the NWBS says) over the period; so the relevant figure is £13.68-20.52bn.

Certain companies favoured by the Government such as Capita also get rich out of this, supposedly administering HB for certain local authorities.

Why “supposedly”?

Twenty three years on from the scrapping of rent controls, rents are still rising becuase foreign investors can also profit from this and are buying up as much of London as they can. So foreign and ex-patriate landlords are enriching themselves on the British welfare state tax free, with housing benefit going to the already wealthy abroad as ultimate recipients.It is also keeping house prices high in this country, and depriving many of the most educated generation in history from owning their own home.

So the fact that we haven’t built enough houses for decades has had nothing to do with it? If demand outstrips supply, what happens to prices?

Then there’s the effect on the HB bill of the government first deregulating, and then positively insisting on rises ahead of inflation in, social housing rents.

I defend tenants in repossession hearings in the County Courts in London and one rarely sees landlords in person as so many are resident abroad.

I’m sorry, but I’d like to see some evidence of that. Having worked both sides of the tracks myself, I’ve not seen this.

Unfortunately, on raising this with politicians in the three main parties,there is a curious urge to maintain the status quo and not alter this state of affairs oreven discuss it. Most people outside Parliament understand the lunacy of wasting welfare money in this way by effectively exporting it abroad. Only the party politically committed want to avoid discussion of this – the interesting question is why?

Foreign investors are attracted into the UK private rented sector by the high yields available coupled with ready availability of buy-to-let finance. HB has nothing to do with it; you don’t get high yields by letting to the bottom 30% of the market, to which Hb is now restricted…

63. Claire Louise Frith

What about all the 1000’s of empty houses that could quite easily be brought back into use yet these houses remain bordered up often by local authorities. There is w major lack of affordable homes in every part of this country. Yet before the economic downturn especially where I live in Cheshire everywhere there were multimillion pound mansions and luxury apartments being built on every spare bit of land. Yet people who have lived in a town all their lives are priced out the town or forced to pay exorbitant rents to private landlords.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    RT @libcon Private landlords 'to get £35bn in benefits' http://t.co/hISrJnrw

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    RT @libcon Private landlords 'to get £35bn in benefits' http://t.co/hISrJnrw

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    RT @libcon: Private landlords 'to get £35bn in benefits' http://t.co/HDmN1CxI

    Time for a rent cap then?

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    WHAT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!RT @libcon: Private landlords 'to get £35bn in benefits' http://t.co/Ko7Ldi63 @DrEoinClarke

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    WHAT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!RT @libcon: Private landlords 'to get £35bn in benefits' http://t.co/Ko7Ldi63 @DrEoinClarke

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    Liberal Conspiracy – Private landlords ‘to get £35bn in benefits’ http://t.co/UQsRaYLU

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    The real scroungers? RT @ShiftingGrounds: RT @libcon Private landlords 'to get £35bn in benefits' http://t.co/ga7KxCG3

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    Private landlords ‘to get £35bn in benefits’ http://t.co/Vj8XWDBd
    The real "players of the system"

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