£482 million a year, almost a fifth of the £2.6 billion NHS budget for maternity services and an estimated £700 for every birth, is being spent on medical negligence cover. The most common reasons for compensation claims are management mistakes, problems after a caesarean section and errors resulting in cerebral palsy.
There is no point in the NHS paying medical insurance premiums to anybody, as they can self-insure. There's is some marginal point in paying for insurance against unusual but catastrophic losses, but there is no point insuring against frequent, small-scale losses.
The NHS knows that out of 700,000 births a year, they are going to mess up a few hundred and will have to pay out few hundred thousand each time, but the total amount is probably fairly stable and only a tiny percentage of the NHS' overall budget, so they might as well just pay the compensation directly. The premiums the NHS pays to the insurance companies will of necessity include the insurance companies' guaranteed profit element, and that is money which could easily be saved.
The government will further support Right to Buy by introducing Right to Buy Agents to help buyers complete their home purchase, and provide £100 million to establish a fund to increase Right to Buy sales, by improving applicants’ access to mortgage finance.
There is absolutely no need for "access to mortgage finance" when somebody does Right To Buy.
Let us assume that at present, Council Tenant A is paying £5,000 a year rent.
The council now decides that he can buy his house at a massive discount for (say) £60,000. If that proud new Homey took out a mortgage for £100,000, the repayments would cost him (say) £3,000 (at current interest rates).
The council can act as the bank and "lend" him the £100,000 out of thin air. They just have to right it down at the top of a sheet of paper, then every year they add on the interest charge and deduct the amount he has paid until he has paid off the loan.
Bonus points to the first idiot who says: "The local council needs to get that money in so that it can build another council house." Firstly that is not true, the amount of council housing to be built (or indeed sold off) is purely a political decision, there are no financial constraints on the amount that can be built and it needs very little in the way of finance.
And even if they did need the cash up-front, the council can easily sell its loan book.
(Why it is considered better for the local council to have fixed income of £3,000 for a limited period rather than £5,000 a year, rising with inflation, in perpetuity is a mystery to me, bearing in mind it is the taxpayer generally who will have to make up the shortfall, but that's a separate topic.)
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Saturday, 7 December 2013
Friday, 6 December 2013
From Beaumont Enterprise:
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Phil Collins, the former Genesis drummer whose earnest ballads made him a star in the 1980s, is penning songs again.
Although he dreads the idea of extended touring because it would take him away from his five children, Collins says he has missed the creativity of music since he retired in 2010.
Collins spoke in Miami Beach on Wednesday. He was in town to promote the expansion of his nonprofit Little Dreams Foundation, which he co-founded with his now ex-wife Orianne Collins to help youth realize their artistic, musical and athletic dreams.
Shouldn't that be "... to help ageing rock stars realize their artistic and musical dreams"?
Thursday, 5 December 2013
From Wiki and Wiki:
Decades after a civil war known as "the Dark Days", the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros (formerly North America) lies in a post-apocalyptic state.
There are violent dynastic struggles among the realm's noble families for control of the wealthy Capitol and twelve (thirteen before the Dark Days) poorer districts all controlled under the Capitol's totalitarian Iron Throne, with each district producing something that sustains the Capitol. Additional threats begin to arise in the icy North and in the eastern continent of Essos.
As punishment for the Dark Days, each district must provide two "tributes" (characters and plot elements from a broad period of the European history) between the ages of 12 and 18 selected by lottery (the "Reaping") once every year to compete in the English Wars of the Roses (1455–85); the tributes must fight to the death in the houses of Lancaster and York, with the sole survivor (the Victor) rewarded with Martin's houses of Lannister and Stark.
In the coal-mining District 12, with its castles and knightly tournaments, when Primrose 'Prim' Everdeen is chosen in her first Reaping, her older sister, the scheming Cersei calls Isabella (1295–1358), an exceptional archer, who volunteers to take her place.
Peeta Mellark, a baker's son, combines such varied inspirations as Hadrian's Wall (which became Martin's great Wall), the fall of Rome and the legend of Atlantis (ancient Valyria). Cersei and Peeta are taken to the Capitol accompanied by the Mongol hordes (the Dothraki), a past District 12 victor and a heavy drinker.
During a TV interview with the games' host, Caesar Flickerman, Peeta reveals his love for elements from the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453).
Cersei is outraged, believing it to be a ploy to gain popularity but discovers Peeta is sincere when talking to him about Icelandic sagas of the Viking Age (the Ironborn) and as well as and the Italian Renaissance (c. 1400–1500).
Asks ViewFromTheSolent, who spotted this story in The News:
POLICE marksmen shot dead a runaway cow as it hurtled towards a school…
The animal managed to run through a field, on to Crookhorn Lane, up Apollo Drive and on to Crookhorn Golf Course. It was found on the 10th fairway... Between 1pm and 3.30pm the animal ran more than five miles...(1)
Police are responsible when an animal runs out of control in a public space and the RSPCA said shooting an animal as big as a cow or bull is the most humane (2), and the safest for public protection, way of killing it.
1) That's barely more than walking pace, isn't it?
2) As opposed to what? Ramming it with a vehicle? Strangling it?
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
From The Evening Standard:
There may be no such thing as a free lunch but free rent is on offer - providing you have an unique skill.
Increasing numbers of householders in the capital are offering free rooms in exchange for services, from Chinese lessons to carpentry.
A leading property website has seen the number of Londoners offering a free room almost double in the last two years.
As I've said, we live in a barter economy.
Clearly, using some common unit of currency, be it gold coins or numbers on computer screens to denominate one half of each transaction makes things much simpler and more efficient, which is why such systems have developed independently thousands of times in various forms all over the world from ancient antiquity onwards, but when it comes down to it, you swap goods and services for goods and services.
But paying your rent in the form of Chinese lessons or carpentry is still payment, and the accommodation is not free.
And strictly speaking, both halves of the transaction are taxable as well; if the Chinese tutor gives £500 of lessons in exchange for £500 of rent, the tutor is supposed to pay tax on the £500 non-cash income (the rent) and the landlord is supposed to pay tax on his £500 non-cash income (the lessons). There is also the quirk that if a man marries his housekeeper, the output/exchange remains the same but the tax base suddenly falls.
Which conveniently illustrates that income tax is double taxation and the only tax which is 'one-sided' is LVT, it is a user charge on the benefits which the owner/occupier gets from society in general and nothing else.
From The Telegraph:
George Osborne will this week announce plans to squeeze hundreds of millions of pounds of extra tax revenue to fund giveaways such as cuts in fuel prices, free school meals and married couple's tax breaks.
Much of the money will come from tighter rules applied to people the Chancellor described this week as "not your average taxpayer". But lawyers and accountants said the rules could affect many who could not be described as rich...
Experts last night warned that many British middle-class professionals will be caught up in a Treasury scheme to charge capital gains tax on UK property sold by overseas nationals and expats. The measures, to be announced in the Autumn Statement, are designed to hit wealthy foreigners buying and selling property in the UK.
However, the plan would also apply to British people living abroad and who are classed as non-resident here, but who still own property in the UK. Approximately five million Britons live abroad.
Jeremy Cape, tax partner at Denton, said: "It's impossible to tell how many British citizens abroad will be affected by this possible change. Potentially the largest class will be those who retired a decade or so ago to a warmer climate, but held on to their UK homes.
FFS, why do they assume that expat's are all "middle-class professionals"? In the very next sentence they say that the bulk of those potentially affected are retired, so not "professionals" any more. What do these people want? A tax only payable by working class people?
And if somebody has retired abroad and still owns a home here, then either it is standing vacant for occasional visits or it is rented out.
If it is vacant, then the vendor is not being "squeezed" if he sells it - he ends up with a big pile of cash with or without CGT on it. And if it is rented out, well it's a business asset and so there's no reason not to tax it.
NB, the UK is unusual in that it has hitherto exempted capital gains made on UK land and buildings owned by foreigners.
Economists, policy wonks and journalists from all round the World are united in their analysis of the problem of housing affordability. It's all the fault of the Government.
Planning regulations are the cause and location values are the effect. Many economists now call land values "regulation tax" instead.
The tables above are taken from a typical report on the subject by Demographia here .
What the report does is rank 377 cities in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland by their median multiple, which is the median house price divided by median household income ie affordability.
With this they also give various examples from the USA linking affordability with planning . Dallas being a perennial cherry picked favourite among economists (there are obvious reasons why the largest cities in Texas are outliers, but these are never mentioned in any of the reports).
For arguments sake, let us agree that yes, in general the higher the median multiple, the more restrictive the planning regulations are. But, going down that 377 list from least to most affordable, it's clear there is another differentiating factor that stands out.
I'm sure the sprawling Dallas Fort Worth metroplex (25,000km2) is a good place to find work and bring up a family. Texas as a whole is now doing well with mineral extraction. It also has a competitive tax regime.
But, if you want, beauty, culture, diversity, heritage and the very highest pay you live and work on the east or west coast.
We are told that supply constraints are the problem but there doesn't seem to be a shortage where the MM is highest.
You can make anywhere more "affordable" by trashing the place and making it less economically efficient. In an unregulated land monopoly this is what you'd get. In the absence of LVT, which would automatically prevent urban sprawl, and help efficiency, we need regulations via planning instead.
In the UK we have seen the effects of applying "free-market" solutions to the land monopoly by relaxing building regulations in 1980. The Parker Morris regulations had given us minimum space standards. With those gone, the effects were inevitable. The smallest homes in the developed World and the highest land values. One fed into the other.
Now we are being told to do the same with planning regulations.
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
From The Evening Standard:
Research today revealed how the "Stamp Duty Dilemma" forced 14,000 UK homeowners to sell properties at a huge loss last year. The study also shows current stamp duty rates left a further 10,000 homeowners unable to sell their property at all.
The organisation behind the research says the stamp duty threshold, which hits buyers with a £7,500 tax bill when purchasing a home over £250,000, is massively outdated and should be reformed…
The research concludes that rising prices mean 73 per cent of all properties on the market now sit just under the £250,000 threshold — 50,000 more homes will reach it in the next five years.
That "73 per cent... just under... £250,000" suggests they are talking about the London housing market, and nearly everybody selling in London will be selling at a colossal gain. Even if not, the "rising prices" they refer to certainly will*. Not a huge loss.
Naomi Heaton, chief executive of London firm LCP which commissioned the study, said: "When they decide to sell, they will be faced with a very tough decision, the Stamp Duty Dilemma — to sell at up to a £10,000 discount? Or not to sell at all..?"
There's no need for any discount at all, and certainly not one larger than the £7,500 mentioned above - the issue is largely psychological and all the cunning seller has to do is to offer to pay the SDLT for the purchaser, which is perfectly legal and do-able.
So the seller can happily sell for (say) £260,000, and pays the £7,800 SDLT himself, thus netting £252,200 i.e. more than £250,000.
"The first course of action means the homeowner may be treading water when they buy a new property as they are unable to trade up. The second course of action is inaction. Either way, the doors remain firmly closed to first time buyers."
The same logic applies to the next home in the chain; the person who has sold his own home (having paid the SDLT himself) can request the same from the next vendor. Or do his sums properly and take the SDLT on the chin.
As to "the doors remaining firmly closed to first time buyers" this makes naff all difference; if more people were selling houses then they would be an equal increase in the number of people looking to buy houses.
* Of course, there will be some vendors elsewhere in the country who are selling at a loss because prices have fallen - but they get two consolation prizes - the SDLT on their next sale/purchase is smaller and it's cheaper to trade up.