Friday 30 November 2012


Spotted on some government website or other by Bob E, who asks "Refurbish? At £60,000 a time?":

Don Foster has announced the opening of bidding for a share of £300 million. The funding will bring thousands of additional empty homes back into use across England.

The communities minister pledged to “stop the rot” that empty homes can bring to blighted neighbourhoods and said that he “wants to go much further” in tackling the problem. Under the scheme 5,000 empty, and in many cases derelict, properties will be refurbished and put back onto the market over the next 3 years...

The government has also given councils greater powers to tackle empty homes locally including:

* allowing councils to charge up to 150% of the normal Council Tax rate on owners of the most problematic neglected homes from April 2013
* applying the ‘New Homes Bonus’ to empty homes, with government matching Council Tax proceeds from newly inhabited properties pound for pound, doubling councils’ revenue from these
* in the most severe cases, enabling councils to take over the most problematic neglected homes through the use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders

If they funded the whole scheme with Council Tax precepts (i.e. quasi-LVT on unoccupied land and buildings) then I'd applaud this; that gives a pull and a push, a carrot and a stick. If only a few land speculators go for the modest carrot, then the tax stick on the die hards won't be very high and they can increase the subsidy and the tax simultaneously. As more and more land speculators cave in and sign up for the subsidy carrot, the higher the tax stick for the recalcitrant speculators will be, within a year or two, there would be no empty homes left, because the extra tax on the last few to cave in would be hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

But as like as not, they'll just be doling out money and feigning surprise at why there are still so many empty and under-occupied homes; and why rents and house prices are so high.

Xmas Gearchange

This one's from the otherwise most excellent 4-CD set called "Merry Xmas", available from HMV for £8 (that works out at 10p per song!), which has got most of the well known ones on it, as well as some of the forgotten classics like "Proper Chrimbo", "Wombling Merry Christmas" and "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth".

It also features a really dreadful song by the Backstreet Boys, with an immaculately badly timed semitone gear change at 3 mins 0 secs, halfway through a line:

"Worcestershire farmer killed by his cattle"

Emailed in by Robert H from Worcester News:

A WORCESTERSHIRE man died from injuries inflicted by his cattle, an inquest has heard.

Colin John Collins, aged 75, of Worcester Road in Inkberrow, was found dead in a field at Quarry Pitts Farm in the village.

An inquest held today heard he died on August 2 as the result of severe injuries inflicted by cattle in the field.

The coroner ruled he died as the result of an accident.

It's not just the cow attacks and giant sink holes we have to worry about...

... you're not even safe in your own four walls any more:

31 August 2012: Couple tell of shock as car hits house wall

15 September 2012: Lotus sports car punches hole in house wall in rush-hour crash

17 September 2012: Couple’s lucky escape as a speeding vehicle crashes into their UPSTAIRS bedroom

9 October 2012: Car crashes into Brantham house while family are inside

13 October 2012: Three people have been taken to hospital in Derby after a car crashed into a row of houses.

15 October 2012: Car crashes into Norfolk teenager's bedroom

15 October 2012: Three injured as car smashes into houses

5 November 2012: Car crashes into house in Hethersett

22 November 2012: Ascot car crashes into house trapping woman and baby

29 November 2012: Two arrested after car crashes into Peterborough house

30 November 2012: Shocking moment drink driver smashes into pub at 60mph burying landlord under wall

30 November 2012: Shoppers miraculously escape serious injury after BMW 4x4 ploughs into sandwich shop

Am I going to have to start doing monthly "car attack" round-ups?

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (284)

There's an article on Inside Housing explaining why and how the so-called 'housing shortage' would melt away if we introduced LVT (among many other advantages). A commenter calling himself Chris appears sympathetic to the idea, but...

As meritable as your proposals are all that would result would be the mass sale of landed assets to offshore trusts and the landlords converted to tenants - against which they would no doubt claim tax deductions for the expense and inconvenience of such avoidance in much the same way that they do now over income...

The major appeal you state as easy seizure against non-payment is easily avoided, as I stated already, by converting owhership into a trust and then basing that trust in 'googleland' or a 'starbucks colony' where UK taxation does not apply. Try seizing a foreign asset and you could start a war John B. Whilst the principle, I agree with you, is very attractive, the reality is exactly the same as the peverse taxation we currently have.

Er, shall we leave the topsy turvy world of Homey non-logic and look at what actually happens in actual real life?

In the UK, we have something called "Business Rates" on commercial land and buildings which is so close to LVT as makes no difference. A lot of commercial land and buildings are owned by pension funds, foreign individuals, foreign companies, murky offshore companies and trusts, but collection rates are still close to 100%.

For sure, the rates are collected from the occupant of the premises (whether owner-occupier or tenant) and not the registered freeholder or leaseholder (unless the premises are vacant and not exempted, in which case the registered owner has to pay) and rather unsurprisingly, collection rates are close to 100%, far higher than other major taxes.

Whether, as a matter of administrative simplicity it is better to collect the cash payments from the occupant or the registered owner is a separate issue, the economic incidence is exactly the same. So landlords can pretend to be tenants or vice versa, owner-occupiers can split themselves up into landlord-tenant and vice versa, it makes f--- all difference.

Exactly the same applies to any annually recurring land taxes, such as Council Tax in the UK or previously Domestic Rates in the UK or Grundsteuer in Germany etc; if I buy myself a house abroad, like in the USA, which is liable to ad valorem taxes (and they nearly all are, although the average rate varies enormously from state to state and from county to county), then either I cough up or sooner or later they will repo the house.

There is no requirement for the USA to declare war on the UK, or wherever I happen to live, and it is a complete perversion of logic and language to describe land in the UK as a "foreign asset".

As to "claiming tax deductions for the expense", well, tax deductions are a question of man-made tax law. Business Rates are a perfectly ordinary allowable expense against corporation tax or income tax, which means that for a given tax take, the corporation or income tax rate has to be slightly higher, is all.

I'd be perfectly happy in principle to let households claim a deduction for the LVT they pay against their income tax bills - we could reduce a private household's income tax bill by £1 for every £1 LVT they pay, which neatly sidesteps the "double taxation" KLN - even though that would be adminstratively very messy (what about a shared rented house, who claims it - the landlord or one or more of the tenants?). It's probably easier to net off people's LVT bill and Citizen's Rebate amount to get a single net + or - figure and adjust their PAYE codes up or down accordingly, so that when LVT is increased and income tax is reduced, most people would see a year-on-year modest increase in their net wages.

They're softening us up for another taxpayer-funded bank bail out

From City AM: UK banks must raise tens of billions in extra capital.

Sky News: UK's Banks 'Could Need Billions More Capital'

BBC: Major UK banks may need to raise more capital as protection against possible future losses

and so on and so forth. This all goes back to the Bank of England's Financial Stability Report:

The Committee recommends that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) takes action to ensure that the capital of UK banks and building societies reflects a proper valuation of their assets, a realistic assessment of future conduct costs and prudent calculation of risk weights.

Where such action reveals that capital buffers need to be strengthened to absorb losses and sustain credit availability in the event of stress, the FSA should ensure that firms either raise capital or take steps to restructure their business and balance sheets in ways that do not hinder lending to the real economy.

Oh dear, thinks the man in the street who only reads the headline, where are they going to get that money from? Fact is, they don't have to raise a single penny from outside the banking system, that's the bit in bold after the "or": UK banks have already raised that money, only they have treated it as bonds and not as share capital.

If the shortfall really is £35 billion, all the banks have to do is reclassify about one-tenth of the bonds (maybe it's one-fifth, who cares) they have already issued as share capital, hey presto, problem solved. The total value of all shares and bonds in issue will not change, and it might even increase slightly if you do the swap properly.

As it happens, banks bonds are trading below par and bank shares are trading at a discount to net assets, so whether you hold a £1 face value bond with a market value of 70p or shares worth 70p for every £1 of net assets is neither here nor there.

But no, the newspapers are already softening people up for the next taxpayer-funded bail out.

As to "sustaining credit availability", that is quite a separate topic. Ultimately, it is the borrower who prints the money, not the bank. Consider, if government borrowing is much the same as the government printing money printing (and it is), then so is private borrowing.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Things you didn't know you didn't know

From the BBC:

Germany's ruling coalition is calling for a ban on bestiality - or the practice of having sex with animals. The German parliament's agriculture committee is considering making it an offence not only to hurt an animal but also to force it into unnatural sex. Offenders could face a hefty fine.

A final vote will be held in the Bundestag (lower house) on 14 December. Germany legalised bestiality (zoophilia) in 1969, except when the animal suffered "significant harm"...

But Michael Kiok, the chairman of the pressure group Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (Zeta), said he was going to take legal action to fight the proposed changes.

"It is unthinkable that any sexual act with an animal is punished without proof that the animal has come to any harm," he said, adding that animals are capable of showing what they do, or do not, want to do. "We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification. We don't force them to do anything. Animals are much easier to understand than women," Mr Kiok claimed.

Bestiality is banned in many European countries, including the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. The law was changed in the UK in 2003, which reduced the maximum sentence from life imprisonment to two years. The act however, is permissible in Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, though Stockholm is considering a change in the legislation.

Woo hoo! "Animals are much easier to understand than women", how on earth can you prove or disprove a statement like that?

Vote early, vote often, vote YPP

If you live in Croydon North, that is.

I'm afraid we don't have a candidates in the by-elections in Middlesbrough and Rotherham.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

"Stage stars blast 'madness' of cuts in arts funding at Evening Standard Theatre Awards"

Some pearls of wisdom from yesterday's Evening Standard (MBVNIF):

[Stephen] Fry said: “Whatever your politics, you can’t believe that art has to take a stand in the marketplace like potatoes or knives and forks or any other industrial thing.”


Accepting an award honouring his Olympics team, Boyle said “a true legacy of the opening ceremony” would be for the arts to be recognised in the EBacc. He added: “For a modern economy that doesn’t make cars any more, we’ve got to understand where our growth comes from. Our success is in culture. Anything that gets in the way of that should be fought against.”


I also get the general impression that most tourists who come to London for "the culture" want to go and see musicals, that most derided of low brow art forms which receives absolutely nothing in the way of subsidies and pays full whack VAT, PAYE, Business Rates and so on. And which are, by and large, enormously successful and profitable.

I doubt whether any tourists come to London especially to see UK taxpayer-funded films. For sure, public museums get subsidies as well and entrance is free, but it's not as if museum staff are routinely paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, that money actually goes on exhibitions and displays.

"Families forced to trudge through Somme-like conditions..."

From The Daily Mail:

For many children the daily trudge to school is bad enough, but spare a thought for these youngsters and their parents as they make their way to lessons. Pupils at the newly-opened £4million Chaddesley Corbett primary school in Worcestershire have to wade their way through a mud-filled trench because no pedestrian footpath was built.

Comparing it to the scene at the end of a First World War battle, parents have reacted angrily to the lack of a proper access route to the school. The primary only opened on Monday and following heavy rain the track to the school has churned up making children filthy before they arrive and parents with buggies barely able to get there.

Mother-of-two Kate Foreman, 31, said that taking her three-year-old daughter Isabelle to school for her first day today would be a nightmare.

She said: "It's a mudbath, it's like the Battle Of The Somme. There are people without mechanised transport who have to march to school and they won't be able to get there. You need wellies and waterproofs it's so bad.

"You've got no chance if you've got a pushchair as well - the wheels would get stuck. It's a complete oversight. They spent all that money on the school but didn't think how people could get there. And if that weren't all bad enough, why did the local education authority decide to waste money on laying mines and installing a German machine gun nest on the high ground? Where are our kids going to play football now that the fields are needed for mass graves?"

Fun Online Polls: The gay gene & Cut-price booze

Thanks to everybody who took part in last week's Fun Online Poll:

Is there a gay gene?

Probably yes - 41%
Probably no - 59%

So that puts me firmly in the minority. Clearly, we can't narrow anything down to a single gene, even simple stuff like eye colour requires the interaction of hundreds of different genes to come up with a result, but my thinking is, nobody (or hardly anybody) is actually brought up to be gay, and there are plenty of gays in countries where they are persecuted, executed etc, so there must be something innate in human nature to throw up a certain bare minimum number of gays (accepting that being straight or gay are merely two points on a vast spectrum, which also includes 'just not interested either way').
This week's Fun Online Poll is to establish whether people are aware of just how f-witted and/or duplicitous politicians are.

Guess here or use the widget in the sidebar.

If you want to cheat, I will save the hassle of Googling it; the answer is here.

That'll teach them

From The Daily Mail:

Almost half of Gibraltar’s famous monkeys could be shipped off the Rock as they are considered 'fearless' of humans.

Although friendly, charming and inquisitive, the wild Barbary Macaques are increasingly running riot through the town’s streets.

"They’ve lost their fear of humans and regard them as a source of rich food," said Gibraltar’s Environment Minister Dr John Cortes.

That is probably one of the most self-defeating plans ever.

If they quietly kidnap half the monkeys and ship them abroad, the remaining monkeys will soon get over it and will then merrily continue pestering people for food, and on a per-monkey basis, will be given even more food. The remaining monkeys might even get the sympathy vote.

If the underlying issue is that the monkeys have become "fearless" then what they ought to do is to wait until there's a pack of them and then simply shoot a few of them at random, repeat this a few times until they've learned their lesson, job done.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

The Work Programme

From the Northern Echo

The DWP did not dispute that £435m had been spent on the programme so far - which put the cost at £14,000 for each person in work for "several months".
That's pretty similar to what a company I know paid a recruitment agency to hire an experienced software developer.

Like a cow attack but smaller

Spotted by بول, from Softpedia:

When it comes to animal attacks, most people work on the assumption that the aggressor must necessarily be a predator, or at least an enraged dog.*

However, a paperboy from Utah recently learned (the hard way, one might add) that goats can also be pretty scary. Thus, Jaxon Gessel got attacked by an 18-month-old pet-Goat Who Must Not Be Named, which knocked him off his bike, tackled him and chased him up a tree.**

Interestingly enough, this 14-year-old boy did nothing to provoke The Dark Ruminant: he was simply riding around, making sure the Utah residents under his “jurisdiction” got their morning papers, sources explain.

* Or a cow, a bull or a calf.

** Presumably not a Whomping Willow.

Holy COW!

Via The Daily Mail.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's CV

Summarised by Garth Turner.

Via Nubbers at HPC.

[Thoroughly Tasteless] Reader's Letter Of The Day

I'm surprised that The Metro printed this one:

Housemates who slam doors in the late hours. Should I moan or just give them a copy of Anne Frank's diary as a helpful guide to being quiet?

Jo, Bristol.

Monday 26 November 2012

They own land! Give them, er, more land!

From the FT:

The Treasury is poised to seize control of the sale of public land owned by Whitehall departments after losing patience with the slow pace of the government’s land disposal programme, the Financial Times has learnt.

George Osborne, the chancellor, is set to announce in next month’s Autumn Statement that all departments will be forced to cede control of their properties and land to a central body, the Homes and Communities Agency...

And what's the reason given for the urgency..?

Ministers have long argued that selling publicly-owned sites could lead to the building of vast numbers of homes. Grant Shapps, the previous housing minister, said in May that the government was on course to "smash" its ambitions for releasing previously used land.

Ministers had identified enough surplus public land, including empty offices and unused storage, to build 102,000 homes, Mr Shapps said. That surpassed the prime minister’s aim to release enough land for 100,000 homes by 2015, he added.

Ho hum, putting aside whether we actually have a housing shortage in an absolute sense, rather than a woefully inefficient use of existing land and buildings (both are equally desirable from the NIMBYs' and land speculators' point of view), what earthly reason to they have for assuming that simply giving home builders more land will mean that they build more houses..?

From The Telegraph 28 August 2011:

Figures compiled from the UK's leading house builders have revealed that they have enough land to build 617,724 homes. Less than half of this land has been granted any kind of planning permission.

from The Telegraph 24 August 2012:

Local authorities have given the go-ahead for more than 480,000 building plots in recent years, yet work is only progressing on 136,700 of them.

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (282, 283)

George Osborne stepped up to the plate last month:

282. This brings me onto the Treasury’s role in devising tax policy.

Every time you walk past a beautiful Georgian house and see a wall where a window used to be, you’re witnessing a visible sign of the Treasury’s well thought through tax policies in action.

When the Window tax was introduced in 1696, it was designed to make sure the wealthy paid more in tax. These fine motives were soon undermined by as a new form of avoidance emerged. Simply brick up the window.

Luckily we don’t have to deal with these sorts of issues today. The window tax was hugely unpopular because it was seen as a tax on light and air – and nothing can be more essential than that.

A tax on the rental value of locations is the opposite of a Window Tax. The number of windows can be varied at will by the owner (subject to planning constraints), but the amount of surface area of the earth at any location is fixed (barring some bizarre tectonic event).

The Homeys argue that if we had LVT, then people would tear down their own buildings to avoid it. Apart from the fact they wouldn't (or else why are there any commercial buildings, liable to Business Rates and the closest thing we have to LVT, left standing?), this is about as stupid as arguing that if people have taken out mortgages to buy land and buildings then they will promptly tear down the buildings to try and get their mortgage payments down.

The LVT payments would relate entirely to the value of the location/planning permission and not to the actual buildings thereon in whatever state of repair, in the same way as mortgage repayments relate to the amount of loan taken out at the time of purchase and not anything which happens subsequently.

283. Lloyd George’s famous People’s Budget of 1909 introduced social insurance for the first time, funded by taxes on cars, on petrol, and a new tax on land and property. Though those tempted by a modern version of a property tax should note Lloyd George’s land tax was eventually abandoned when it cost more money to collect than it raised.

That's an outright lie.

It was the House of Lords which put paid to the increases in "rates" (whether Business Rates or Domestic Rates. Agricultural Rates were already on the way out at the time). Both Business Rates and Domestic Rates (or their modern poor relation, Council Tax) have always raised far more revenue than they cost to collect, in fact, collection costs (including compliance, non-payment and deadweight costs) are far, far lower than for any other major taxes.

Seeing as Osborne's best mate has refused to even contemplate the least radical suggestion, which was to simply add new Council Tax bands at the upper end, which would mean more revenue for the same collection costs, I think we know which side he's on.

Reader's Letter Of The Day (2)

From the FT:

Sir, In “Learn from the Moguls: rent-seeking will destroy your empire” (November 21) John Kay did not need to refer to a foreign ruler such as the Mogul, Shah Jahan, for an example of rent-seeking activities when our own history is littered with monarchs who also indulged in it. William the Conqueror and Henry VIII come to mind.

Turning to his reference to the primary locus of modern rent-seeking and the overblown financial sector’s involvement in the burgeoning trade in existing assets, has not government policy for generations encouraged investment and speculation in land to the detriment of productive enterprise, the former being virtually tax-free while the latter has usually not been able to take place without the burden of a multiplicity of taxes?

This has been marvellous for those families that have owned land through the industrial revolution, selling from time to time at hugely increased prices as planning permission has been given while the increasing millions of wage and salary earners are lent money by us, thus enabling them to pay even higher prices, not for the roofs over their heads but for the land on which their houses are built.

Now we have the situation which includes a relatively small number of us on the one side with either very wealthy land holdings, comprising the bulk of our country, and, or very large amounts of cash and investments from previous land sales and, on the other hand, millions of our fellow citizens up to their neck in debt, a major part of which has probably been incurred directly or indirectly to pay for the inflated price of the land on which their homes stand.

Is it any wonder the economy struggles while politicians, trapped by their political and financial inheritance, initiate policies that tend to exacerbate rather than alleviate the problems? Are we really determined to continue our support for rent-seeking at the expense of all those of us who try to create the wealth on which we all depend?

John Read, London.

Reader's Letter Of The Day

From The Metro (26 November 2012, page 14):

Joe Alvarex said David Cameron's stand on the failure of the Church of England to approve female bishops is 'disrespectful and risks huting the independence of an important institution'.

I'm afraid he is wrong. The Church and state are not separate in this country. They are linked together. This is seen most clearly in the House of Lords, where 26 bishops sit as the Lords Spiritual.

If the Church is to have a say in the laws of this country, it should have to stick by those same laws and not be exempt from equality legislation. Bishops are allocated 26 seats in parliament - where females are woefully under-represented - that women don't have a change of filling.

While the Church has the opportunity to influence our laws, then we should have the right to demand equality from it.

Sheila Fairlamb, London.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Cameron on welfare for the wealthy


On my first night as Prime Minister, I said we would build a more responsible society.

Where we back those who work hard and do the right thing.

Where we look after the elderly and frail. Especially those trapped in mansions they can no longer afford to heat.

Where – as I put it – those who can, should; and those who can’t, we will always help.

Building that society is simply not possible without radically reforming welfare for the wealthy.

Today, almost one pound in every three spent by the Government goes on subsidies to landowners and banks.

In a world of fierce competitiveness – a world where no-one is owed a living – we need to have a welfare system that the country can properly afford.

The system we inherited was not only unaffordable.

It also trapped people in poverty and encouraged non-productive land speculation.

So we set to work.

In two years, Iain Duncan Smith has driven forward welfare reform on a scale and with a determination not seen since World War Two.

He is a great, reforming Minister, with a passion and commitment that shine through.

And he is delivering remarkable results:

Over 400,000 more minor aristocrats in work than in 2010.

Tens of thousands of MPs expense claims re-assessed, and found to be fraudulent.

We’ve established the biggest-ever Work Programme – and we’re well on our way to getting 100,000 ex-bankers into proper jobs.

We’ve helped tens of thousands of estate agents find real work experience.

Reformed and reduced the extent of interest rate subsidies for banks. Tightened up agricultural subsidies.

Capped Housing Benefit so that in general, no landlord can earn more than the average family earns.

And we’ve laid the foundation for Land Value Tax and a Citizen's Dividend.

This has the potential to be one of the most significant reforms for a generation.

Ending the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home collecting rent from others than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays.

What Iain Duncan Smith has achieved over the past two years.

Refusing to accept the status quo, turning around huge numbers of lives is truly remarkable.

But the job we have set ourselves, of building a welfare system that truly works – that supports the responsible society – that job is not yet complete.

So today I want to talk not just about what we’ve done, but where we go from here...

Inspired by SBC at HPC.

Friday 23 November 2012

Friday Night Gear Change

I've only just noticed that there's a gear change in "This Kiss" by Faith Hill. The song is in E but the chorus that starts straight after the middle eight at 1 min 54 secs is in F#. I suspect that the actual gear change is during the middle eight itself, but I can't quite work it out, there's something a bit odd in there, but middle eights are supposed to sound a bit odd.

"DR Congo's M23 rebels reject call to leave Gatwick"

From the BBC:

Rebels from the Democratic Republic of Congo have rejected a call by regional leaders to withdraw from the main West Sussex airport of Gatwick.

An M23 rebel group leader said their fighters would push ahead to seize the Costa Coffee franchise at Terminal One unless Global Infracture Partners chairman Adebayo Ogunlesi agreed to talks. Mr Ogunlesi and London and East Sussex leaders have jointly appealed to the rebels to pull out of the departures lounge.

About 8,500,000 people have flown from Gatwick since April, when fighting spilled over from the heart of Africa to the English Home Counties in some bizarre space-time continuum mix-up which particle satirists have yet to satisfactorily explain. And quite how an innocent seeming motorway should rise up in armed rebellion is no doubt something that will puzzle historians for centuries to come.

On Wednesday, a long-awaited UN report accused neighbouring Greater London and East Sussex of backing the M23, a 17-mile stretch of motorway which connects the M25 with the airport, saying the rebel chain of command culminates with Rwandan Transport Minister James Kabaret. Both the Greater London Assembly and East Sussex County Council strongly denied the accusations when the report was leaked last month.

After the fall of the baggage handling depot on Tuesday, London Mayor Boris Johnson took the monorail to the Krispy Kreme outlet for two hours of crisis talks with East Sussex' council leader Peter Jones. The two leaders issued joint statement calling on the rebels to stop their offensive "immediately" and to withdraw from the bus and coach terminal, which has a population of a few dozen.

The M23's highways chief, Bishop Jean-Marie LePen, told Reuters news agency that London and East Sussex had no authority to order them to give up Short Stay Car Park B.

"We'll stay here waiting for negotiations," he is quoted as saying. "They [government forces] are going to attack us and we're going to defend ourselves and keep on advancing. And has anybody got change for the f***ing meters? We need to get these tanks over to the Long Stay Car Park and we only brought Euros."

The Times' motoring correspondent, Linley Gofaster-Strypes was behind a paywall and unavailable for comment.

We own land! Give us money!

From City AM:

HOUSEBUILDERS and industry executives welcomed government plans yesterday to provide an extra £225m funding to help unblock a number of stalled schemes to deliver 48,600 new homes.

Speaking at the National House-Building Council annual lunch deputy prime minister Nick Clegg warned that the UK has “been under-building for decades” with more than 100,000 homes needing to be built each year. He pledged to provide £225m to underwrite major housing projects that had “hit a wall”. The projects will be modelled on “garden cities” of the early 20th century such as Letchworth and Milton Keynes, which were built after the second world war.

The Confederation of Business Industry said the move should “inject confidence” into the sector by offering some respite to housebuilders struggling to get funding. But the lobby group added: “House builders need the government to deliver on its promises by urgently clarifying how this new funding will work alongside the £10bn of government guarantees, and by championing NewBuy to boost demand.”

Clegg also announced that the European Investment Bank will be injecting £400m into the UK affordable housing sector. That money will be allocated by next March and will help deliver new energy efficient affordable homes – as well as improving the energy efficiency of existing homes too, he said.

Polishing a turd

Bob E brings us an update on how the Blue & Red Wings of The Daily Mail party are competing to see who can be 'tougher on welfare scroungers'. From The Guardian:

The government's welfare reform minister has suggested lone parents, sickness claimants and other people on benefits are too comfortable not having to work for their income, saying they are able to "have a lifestyle" on the state...

"The incapacity benefits[sic], the lone parents, the people who are self-employed for year after year and only earn hundreds of pounds or a few thousand pounds, the people waiting for their work ability assessment then not going to it – all kinds of areas where people are able to have a lifestyle off benefits and actually off conditionality," the Conservative peer said...

But what is this - could it be a turd attacking a turd? It is!

Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "The nasty party is well and truly back. This government has comprehensively failed to get Britain back to work and frankly it's a disgrace that ministers now choose to kick people when they are down rather than even pretend to offer a helping hand."

Suffering from Short Memory Syndrome again, is our Liam, it seems ... someone ask him who first gave this person, sorry nasty person, a platform to have his nasty views translated into government policy? I wonder if that Beeb hagiography from 2009 gives us any clues..?

Sir David was hired by ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair to draw up a review of the welfare system, and in 2007 proposed opening up the system to the private sector as well as requiring lone parents to seek work earlier.

His suggestions were initially shelved amid reports of opposition from Gordon Brown, but he was hired again by Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell in 2008 to work on a welfare green paper. That paper called for measures to get more disabled people and lone parents into work, and was backed by the Conservatives while outraging many on the Labour left.

In response, the Tories promised a "full-blooded version" of Sir David's proposals, and criticised the government's implementation of them as "half-hearted". Should the party form the next government, Sir David will now be in an even stronger position to make sure they are true to their word.

It's also worth noting at this stage how these myths create themselves. The Tories originally proposed - quite sensibly to my mind - to cap Housing Benefit at a very generous £400 per household per week, this then turned into a general cap of £500 on all benefits.

Clearly, short of outright fraud, no workless household receives anywhere near £500 a week in cash benefits*, so they then declared that Housing Benefit would be capped at £500 minus cash benefits received, which also seems more than fair. The landowners squealed at this loss of lovely subsidies. The Guardianistas were waving shrouds at the tops of their voices. My view was if a simple policy proposal like that can simultaneously piss off two groups of rent seekers, it's got to be a good thing.

So far so good, but there now appears to be a general assumption that all welfare claimants receive more than £500 a week in benefits, see e.g. Metro Reader's letters (21 November 2012, pages 14-15), which is quite simply not true. I quote:

I find it immoral that someone who chooses to drop out of school at the age of 16 and spend the rest of their days being looked after by the state can have £500 a week handed to them, while another young person who decides to stay on in education and go to college or university while holding down a part-time job, is lucky if they can make more than £400 a week.

While I have every sympathy with people who do the right thing (scrapping taxes on income and having universal benefits would help them enormously), the proverbial 16-year old school leaver is "entitled to" Employment and Support Allowance of £56.25 a week, a nice cosy place on a housing waiting list and all manner of grief and hassle.

* Entitledto tells us that e.g. an unemployed couple with three kids gets £111 Income Support, £165 Child Tax Credits and £47 Child Benefit per week = £323 per week. That leaves £177 a week for rent, £770 a month, which happens to be slightly more than the overall average rent paid for private housing in the UK.

Thursday 22 November 2012

"Gaza: Ceasefire between Hamas and Israel holds for over an hour"

From The Metro:

At least three rockets were fired into Israel after the truce came into effect an hour ago, Israel said, but two were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system and a third landed in uninhabited territory. No missiles have been reported for over half an hour, however, which by their standards counts as a long and stable peace.

Last night Palestinians celebrated the 'victory' over Israel: "Allahu akbar, [God is greatest], dear people of Gaza you won," mosque loudspeakers in Gaza blared last night. "You have broken the arrogance of the Jews. We have crushed them like spiders. Will the last Zionist oppressor to leave please turn out the lights."

"These people made this victory by their patience, by the blood of our people,' said Hamas spokesman Ihab Hussein.

As this afternoon's lull in the fighting dragged on, hopes were high that it might break the record set by the legendary "Weekend Peace" which lasted for over twelve hours in February 2005.

Further attempts by Hamas leaders to draw parallels between the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the Nazi crushing of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 were deemed inadmissible under Godwin's Law. "The Jewish inhabitants of Warsaw had all been murdered by then anyway," said the Israeli Defence Force spokesman, "So the intended irony falls flat on its Arab arse."

"Two more 'victims' come forward to accuse Elmo of grooming them for underage sex"

From The Daily Mail:

Two more alleged victims have come forward claiming that Sesame Street's Elmo sexually abused them bringing the potential total to four.

Speaking exclusively to Mail Online, Jeff Herman, attorney for Cecil Singleton, 24, one of those claiming abuse at the much-loved puppet's hands revealed that he has been contacted by two further young men.

He said: "I have been contacted by a couple of young men who allege similar facts to those alleged by Cecil. I'm still vetting them - they're not sure whether it was Elmo or Murray - so cannot go into too much detail but their allegations are very similar." He added, "Let's be clear. We're not talking about underage sex here. There is no such thing as consensual sex with a puppet. There is sexual abuse'.

Amid a flurry of accusations, the 53-year-old Sesame Street star resigned on Tuesday when Mr Singleton became the second young man to step forward with tales of inappropriate and underage sexual relations.

A spokesman for Animal pointed out that he featured in The Muppet Show not Sesame Street and denied any possible knowledge of or involvement with behind the scenes abuse on Sesame Street.

A spokesman for the Pope called to say "Ha! You can't pin this one on us! Sieg Heil!" and then slammed down the phone.

I'm surprised they didn't blame "catastrophic sea level rises"

From the BBC:

A South Pacific island, shown on marine charts and world maps as well as on Google Earth and Google Maps, does not exist, Australian scientists say.

The supposedly sizeable strip of land, named Sandy Island on Google maps, was positioned midway between Australia and French-governed New Caledonia.

But when scientists from the University of Sydney went to the area, they found only the blue ocean of the Coral Sea. The phantom island has featured in publications for at least a decade.

You can still see it on Google Maps, go to New Caledonia and head north-west, but no doubt in a few days' time it will disappear for ever.
All a bit sad really. No doubt the nearby Katrina Shoals will be deleted shortly as well. It's like when they decided that Pluto was no longer a planet.

Giant Sinkhole Of The Week

From the BBC, the Great Western Canal, Halberton, Devon.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (254 thru' 281)

It took a dozen Tory MPs to compile a cracking summary of at least eighteen completely false and misleading claims, which they helpfully summarised in a letter to the Evening Standard (21 Nov 2012, page 57):

As MPs representing London constituencies, we are very worried about the effect of a new property tax being proposed by the Liberal Democrats.(1)

Additional local property taxes would hit ordinary families (2) and pensioners(3) who have worked hard, saved carefully and paid their taxes.(4) It would include those with large mortgages(5) who are not otherwise capital-rich,(6) and professionals who live in shared houses in London.(7) Pensioners now on modest income living in their long-standing family home would be hit the hardest.(8)

The revaluation process need to impose this new tax requires inspectors to visit people's homes,(9) would take three years to complete,(10) and cost taxpayers over a quarter of a billion pounds.(11)

We believe that there are much better ways to ensure that the most well-off in society pay their fair share of tax.(12) The Lib-Dem "mansion tax" would turn out to be a "granny tax" fuelled by the politics of envy.(13) It would be another blow on top of the heavy burden of council tax which doubled under the last Labour government.(14)

It is costly, bureaucratic(15) and unfair:(16) Government ministers should resist this attack on those Londoners(17) who have worked hard all their lives and done the right thing.(18)

Bob Neill, Mike Freer, Nick De Bois, Bob Blackman, Angela Watkinson, Matthew Offord, Andrew Rosindell, Angie Bray, Zac Goldsmith, Mark Field and Mary Maclead, London Conservative MPs

1) Mainly they're concerned for their own buy-at-taxpayers'-expense-to-let portfolios and their banker friends.

2) Lie. Ordinary families in London do not live in homes worth more than £1 million or £2 million or whatever the cut-off point is.

3) Poor Widow Bogey.

4) Irrelevance. Massive windfall gains have accrued to everybody who bought a house in London over the past few decades, regardless of whether they were otherwise hard-working, careful savers or honest taxpayers.

5) A few of them yes, the proposed "mansion tax" would be about as terrible as an interest rate hike of rather less than one per cent. We can reasonably expect them to have budgeted for that, and they'll still probably be paying less than they originally budgeted for if they bought more than five years ago.

6) Since when does not being "capital-rich" have anything to do with it? isn't the traditional rallying cry that "Taxes on the rental value of land would hit the capital-rich, cash-poor"?

7) Who by implication are tenants. The Home-Owner-Ist élite celebrates the fact that London rents are rising year on year, and the tax would be borne by the owners not the tenants anyway.

8) Poor Widow Bogey again. Is it so terrible if they bank some of their million pound winnings and move elsewhere, so that a truly hard working/high earning family can move in?

9) Outright lie.

10) Outright lie.

11) Outright lie based on actual fact. The Morbidly Obese One claimed recently that doing a full Council Tax revaluation for the whole of the country would cost about £260 million, which is less than £10 per home and is the sort of thing that ought to be done in the interests of fairness anyway, or would you rather than HMRC saves itself a few quid by insisting you continue to pay tax based on your earnings of twenty-one years ago?

12) But they don't say it. Therefore lie.

13) Woah! Let's say we scrapped NIC, VAT and higher rate income tax and just had flat 20% flat income tax. Would that be "politics of envy" or a "rich giveaway"? For sure, somebody earning a million quid a year would be about £400,000 a year better off, but he'd still be chipping in £200,000 a year to the general pot, i.e. forty times as much as an average earner. Why is it so terrible to expect somebody in a £2 million house to pay ten times as much Council Tax as somebody in a median value home? Why does the latter count as "politics of envy" but not a proposal for a low-rate flat income tax?

14) The Council Tax is pennies, it raises less than the taxes on booze and fags. And even the "mansion tax" would be a lot, lot, lot less than what the old Domestic Rates would have been, which the Tories thoughtfully abolished in the 1980s.

15) Taxes on land are neither costly to administer nor particularly bureaucratic. That £260 million potential cost of a full Council Tax revaluation is less than one per cent of annual Council Tax receipts, and collection rates are very good (which means that the honest don't end up paying for the dishonest).

16) Define "fair".

17) But income tax is also an "attack on Londoners" because people in London have the highest incomes. Simple fact is that a tax on land values is a tax on land values, if land values are highest in London, then so be it.

18) Lie. People who are sitting on massive unearned windfall land price gains have usually done little or nothing to deserve them, it's like a lottery but more corrupt (and yes, I have also banked massive unearned windfall land price gains, which I duly declared for CGT, unlike most MPs, and it just sort of lands on your doormat, there is little skill or hard work involved).

"Killjoy Pope crushes Christmas nativity traditions"

From The Daily Mail:

With just under 34 days until Christmas, the Pope has put a dampener on the festive period by rubbishing the idea that donkeys or any other animal have a place in the traditional nativity scene.

Benedict XVI also claims angels never sang to the shepherds to proclaim Christ birth's - trashing the much-loved carol 'Hark! The herald angels sing' in the process. From this falsehood the tradition of singing carols was born, the Pope says.

His views are revealed in his latest and last installment of three volumes on the life of Jesus, released today, which is set to be a worldwide bestseller.

The former Hitler Youth member also pointed out that snowfall was unheard of in the Middle East at the time, pine or fir trees were not native to the region and tinsel had not been invented yet.

"As to strings of coloured fairy lights - just forget it, they hadn't even discovered electricity," added the 85-year old misery guts. "And don't get me started on gold, Frankenstein, incest and mirth."

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (253)

Merryn Somerset Web detonated the LVT bomb over at Moneyweek* again.

Palgone: the problem here is that this mansion tax is setting an arbitrary bar at £1 million, and then arbitrarily assumes that the occupier of said house has a certain cashflow. This is the logical deduction of a child.


There is no such "assumption" and it is he who is applying the "logical deduction of a child". The LVT system is based on the absolute 100% certainty that a potential tenant would be willing to pay a rent sufficient to cover the LVT plus landlord's running costs; or that a potential purchaser would be willing to pay for the cost/value of bricks and mortar and pay the LVT himself. The fact that the current occupant might not have the cash to pay the LVT is nigh on irrelevant.

It's like BMW, they don't set their prices at something which elderly BMW drivers can afford, or which drivers of old second hand BMWs can afford, they set them at whatever they think is the revenue-maximising price. And if you can't afford a new BMW, you make do with something cheaper, or public transport. That's free market capitalism for you.
Palgone himself then goes on to suggest a sensible transitional arrangement:

Would it be so hard to add a little more detail:

Houses in England worth over £1 million AND with the occupiers earning over XXX get charged this

Houses in London worth over £2 million AND the occupiers earning over XXX get charged this.

Boom. You have a basic appreciation for nationwide price differences, and more importantly, you have some means testing, so that pensioners who suddenly wake up in their WW2 house they bought 50 years ago to find it worth XXXXXXX don't get punished for have done absolutely nothing.

No, that would not be hard, and something along these lines would be included in any sensible LVT-proposals. Our current tax/means testing system takes away up to eighty per cent of your earned income (or pension income), and to get the ball rolling, I see little harm in capping any household's LVT bill at some percentage of its earned income, that percentage to be gradually increased over time.

I hotly disagree that pensioners played no part in pushing up rents and house prices, as they are as rabidly NIMBY as the rest and also campaigned long and hard to get Schedule A tax and Domestic Rates abolished, but there you go.

* Via Martin Green at HPC.

QE & FLS: Rubbing our noses in it

From City AM:

Under QE the Bank prints money to buy government debt, to push down interest rates. This is meant to stimulate the economy, but it also drives up inflation. In addition, QE has been criticised as it reduces the value of the annuity retirees can buy with their pension pots, attracting the ire of the older generation.(1)

Weale yesterday defended the policy, arguing that young people have been particularly badly hit by the downturn(2) and so need support from the central bank.(3) In particular he noted that almost 10 per cent of young men have been unemployed for more than six months, compared with just over three per cent for men aged 31 to 64.

As a result he feels hitting the old with QE has been justified because it helps the young.(4)

1) The first paragraph is a fair summary, apart from the bit about QE being intended to "stimulate the economy", there is absolutely no reason to assume that it will achieve anything of the sort, like just about everything else the UK government has been doing for the last five years, it's about propping up banks and house prices.

2) Yes, just about everything the government is doing - propping up rents and house prices, taking away benefits, hiking tuition fees, increasing taxes on labour which destroys jobs and makes it disproportionately harder to get a job in the first place, massive deficit spending etc - is designed to fob off as much of the burden onto the young and future generations, so the end result is hardly surprising.

3) The central bank is part of the government, if it wanted to "support" the young , it would be doing pretty much the opposite of what it is actually doing (see long list in 2).

4) Woah! False choice there! This is not a question of sharing a dwindling cake between the under-40s and the over-65s, what's happening here is that the usual suspects are f-ing over both groups simultaneously, the only winners here are the bankers, insurance companies and landowners.

Just to illustrate the point, also from City AM:

MORTGAGE lending climbed to an 11-month high in October, according to data out yesterday, as the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) entered its third full month of activity...

Mark Harris, boss of SPF Private Clients, a mortgage broker, said he expected the mortgage market to ease further and further over the coming year. "This bodes well for next year – as lenders saturate the low loan-to-value (LTV) market with a plethora of rock-bottom rates, they will be forced to turn to the higher LTV bracket," he predicted.

The FLS is out of the same stable as QE, it's about reducing interest rates for the benefit of the already wealthy and the Baby Boomers. Apart from the fact that easy credit and high house prices are what got us into this mess in the first place, the only people to benefit from FLS are people who are selling land (because they can sell them for higher prices) and people with a lot of equity who can double on their mortgages and expand their BTL empires.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

"Cows Flee California Seeking a Better Economic Climate"

Spotted by Chuckles in/at Real Clear Markets:

It's not just millionaires and billionaires who are fleeing the economic madness in California. Even cows are starting to depart for greener pastures. That's right, 400 bovine refugees shuffled off to Kansas just this month, with more expected to follow as over 100 dairy farms in California close their doors.

Why are cows voting with their hooves..?

Well, you'll have to read the article to find out, too good to just cut and paste here.

"Woman killed in Basel bull attack"

Spotted by Witterings in The Local:

The tragedy occurred at around 8am on a farm in Liestal, the canton’s capital, cantonal police said.

The woman was in a pasture when a three-year-old bull, weighing about a tonne, charged her, police said. The farmer died from the injuries she received.

The exact circumstances of the attack are unclear, police said. The incident is being investigated by cantonal police and the prosecutor’s office of Basel-Country. A cantonal care team provided psychological support to those close to the farmer.

Police said the bull will be euthanized in the next few days.

The incident marks the second time a farmer has been killed by a bull in Switzerland in less than four months. A 71-year-old farmer was knocked over by a bull at a farm in the Bichwil-Oberwil region of Saint Gallen on August 16th. Medical attendants were unable to save the man from the injuries he suffered.

Fun Online Polls: Quantitative Easing & The Gay Gene

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

If one govt department pays interest to another govt department, what is this, from the point of view of the govt or the taxpayer?

An expense - 25%
Income - 4%
The two net off to nothing - 71%

The first two answers are of course wildly incorrect, and those who propose either view are doing it for knee-jerk political reasons, the right-wingers because they think that everything is government spending and the left-wingers because they want to add the cash value of that nominal transfer to public spending. Or else they are just stupid.

The same point holds for all transfers between government departments. What matters is the amount of tax going in at one end and the amount of spending going out at the other, so internal transfers from council to Whitehall or HMRC to Treasury etc do not matter too much.
And lo to this week's Fun Online Poll, based on this exchange in The Guardian, Is there a gay gene?

To my mind, Paul Burston talks from personal experience and applies logic, his conclusion makes good sense to me. I have no idea what Julie Bindel is waffling on about, she seems to be arguing about which explanation she'd prefer to be true, and then gives rather convoluted reasons for preferring that, rather than presenting any evidence or logic to support her assumptions as to which explanation is actually true. But hey ho, maybe that's just me being a male chauvinist pig. Or maybe being lesbian is more of a personal choice but being a gay man is something you are just destined to be?

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Shaken, not stirred

Something else which I have (re)discovered recently is that mixing things by stirring them (i.e. in an open container with a spoon) is a mug's game, the way forward is to pour both into a container with a sealed lid (jam jar, Thermos flask, empty plastic milk bottle, doesn't matter) and shake it vigorously for a couple of minutes, if you are trying to use up the last bit of powder in the bottom of a jar, then you just pour the liquid into the jar and screw the top back on. It's less lumpy and less effort that way; the extra good news is you can change hands if you get tired, and you've still one hand free for other stuff.

If mixing powder and liquid, put the powder in first. I did once see Nigella Lawson illustrate the merits of this technique on one of her currant affairs programmes, but I forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago.

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (252)

I sometimes get the impression that the Home-Owner-Ist élite and their lackeys are getting a bit nervous about losing their lovely income-tax-funded welfare system, because they have been really stepping up the propaganda lately:

ONCE again, Boris Johnson is making sense on tax. He is right to be calling for a lower tax economy (1) and to oppose increasing the tax on homeowners (2) – while simultaneously demanding the elimination of the loopholes that mean that the current system is riddled with problems, especially when it comes to corporation tax...(3)

The increasingly popular idea that taxing property would be an easy way of raising even more money is disastrously deluded.(4) Stamp duty was hiked to 7 per cent (or more in some cases) for homes worth £2m+ this year. In London, sales under £2m dipped one per cent in the third quarter. But sales of homes worth £2m-£5m collapsed 53 per cent compared to the third quarter of 2012, according to Land Registry data analysed by London Central Portfolio. This will have triggered a decline, not an increase, in tax receipts for that category of homes, in a stark illustration of Arthur Laffer’s famous curve.

Britain is obsessed with tax avoidance. This will only be solved through comprehensive tax reform. But most people are already appallingly over-taxed.(5) Their vast contribution to the Exchequer should not be forgotten.(6)

1) The rest of the article explains how high the actual tax burden on most of the working, i.e. wealth creating, population is, the average total marginal tax rate is about fifty per cent overall. We could do ourselves a huge favour by reducing these taxes on earned income. But the money's got to come from somewhere, so surely it is better to tax unearned income (no Laffer effects or deadweight costs etc) than to tax earned income?

2) He then moves seamlessly to bracketing in good taxes on unearned income (the rental value of land) with bad taxes on earned income, a traditional Home-Owner-Ist sleight of hand. The idea that taxes on the rental value of land are taxes on "homeowners" is a nonsense of course, if a house is owner-occupied, the tax is £x,000 and if an identical house next door is landlord/tenant, then the tax on the house next door is also £x,000. So it is not a tax on homeowners, landlords or tenants, it is a community charge for the benefits which the owners/occupiers of any particular plot receive from the community.

3) I don't get this obsession with corporation tax, that is one of the least bad taxes (give or take some stupid timing differences and disallowances, there is no corporation tax on reinvested 'profits', only on the cash surplus), although still inferior to LVT.

4) No it's not. He's not talking about a tax on the annual rental value of land, he's talking about a really stupid tax called "Stamp Duty Land Tax" which is a random percentage of the selling price of land payable every time it is sold, but which can be avoided by simply never selling. So if LVT is like a flat income/corporation tax, then SDLT is like making people hand over a whole year's salary every time they change jobs.

5) Earned income is indeed "appallingly over-taxed", but unearned income is "appallingly under-taxed" and "appallingly over-subsidised", it's "welfare for the wealthy"; the Poor Widows In Mansions are just a convenient human shield.

6) But The Exchanquer doesn't spend the money itself, does it? It's either stolen by quangocrats, paid out as old age pensions, spent on merit goods (in a rather inefficient manner) or spent on propping up the rental value of land. Can't we just short-circuit all this and charge land owners for the benefits they receive?

Monday 19 November 2012

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (251)

The Sun Says:

Axe, not tax

The Tories will be playing with fire if they bump up council tax to keep Nick Clegg happy. Council tax is already crippling.(1) And the Lib Dem argument for an increase is deeply flawed.(2)

Higher property valuation bands would hammer many working families (3) and retired people (4) who do not see their ordinary semis and terraced houses in the South as mansions.(5) Instead of raising taxes, let the Government cut overseas aid, reduce Whitehall overmanning and axe quangos.(6)

Who cares about keeping the idiot Clegg happy anyway? The Sun doesn’t.(7)

1) Outright lie. The total taxes raised from the productive economy are about £400 billion a year, borne mainly by fewer than 20 million working households; the overall effective tax rate on earnings is at least fifty per cent. Council Tax raises £25 billion-odd from 27 million households and is not income-related so does not discourage people from working (although Council Tax benefit probably does). No business has ever shut down because its customers or employees paid higher council tax - or are you more likely to get made redundant if you get a promotion and move into a nicer house in a higher council band?

2) No it's not. Their argument is quite sensible: "You can't take land abroad or hide it from the taxman."

3) Outright lie, see (1).

4) The interests of working age are completely at odds with the interests of retired people. If you're on the side of Poor Widows In Mansions, then you are quite maliciously acting against the interests of working age people. And the interests of landowners and bankers in 'the South' are diametrically opposed to the interests of the rest of the country anyway.

5) So what? The Queen probably thinks that Balmoral is a modest holiday cottage. A tax on rental values is a tax on rental values; for these purposes, a home on a large plot in a cheap area is equivalent to a home on a small plot in an expensive one. Market prices and market rents tell us this.

6) True but irrelevant. That's the spending side, not the tax raising side. It's like a school pupil going to the careers advisor and asking him whether he should spend his future earnings on cars or holidays.

7) Neither do I, but occasionally even Nick Clegg is right.

Was this supposed to be ironic?

From The Daily Mail:

The heir to the magnificent Blenheim Palace and its 11,500-acre estate was disinherited by his father, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, in 1994 because of his dissolute lifestyle. He spent years lurching between rehab and the courts, he spent all his money on drugs – including heroin and cocaine – and was even forced to sleep in the car parks of five-star hotels.
Via Drewster at HPC, who picked up on the inevitable "I own land, give me money!" aspect:

After the Environment Agency forced Blenheim to rebuild a centuries-old dam – the second in a year – he lobbied Mr Cameron for a grant.

He explained: "The Environment Agency sort of went swaggering around the countryside saying, 'You need to do this and by the way you’ll be paying for it because we haven’t got any money. And, by the way, if you don’t, you’ll go to jail'. Their ethos was like, 'Once in 25 million years the lake could possibly flood, and in the worst-case scenario, the people might get their ankles wet in Bladon [a nearby village]. We want a cheque for £1.75 million.'

"Well, we’ve done it. We had to. It was a hard job to do, not only financially but there was no grant scheme available – not even the heritage division of the Lottery. In fact, I asked the Prime Minister that very question. I said, 'How are you going to help when, you know, I’m doing all this canvassing for you hopefully to get in to Witney as our MP? What are you going to do for us?’"

"Sobering thought: British children susceptible to brainwashing"

From The Metro:

They were tricked into telling researchers that alcohol promotions encouraged excessive drinking, pointing out it was 'cheaper to buy a three-litre bottle of cider than buy a ticket to go to the cinema'. The 16- to 24-year-olds had also been persuaded that there was a widespread culture of 'drinking to get drunk' despite there being little evidence to support this.

Tom Smith, from Alcohol Concern, which carried out the study, said that this showed how susceptible children were to the constant lies and propaganda pumped out by his own taxpayer funded organisation.

"This is further proof of the impact which our disinformation is having on the mental health and wellbeing of our young people," he said. "They have dutifully parroted loud and clear that the way in which alcohol is priced influences the way they drink, even though the only reason they said it is because we told them to and then asked leading questions."

The latest findings back up previous research showing British children are more likely to have been brainwashed by the age of 13 than children from almost anywhere else in Europe. Alcohol Concern claims government-funded lies and propaganda is 44 per cent more widespread now than it was in 1980 and that there are 25 per cent more off-licences.

Nearly seven out of ten young people told researchers that cheaper alcohol from off-licences compared with pubs and bars influenced their drinking habits. The Home Office claimed it was working hard to step up the level of brain washing being directed at the general public. It said: "Introducing a minimum unit price is just one of a range of measures the government is taking to create the impression is tackling alcohol-related crime and disorder in our local communities."

Saturday 17 November 2012

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (250)

Two snippets emailed in by Bob E:

From The Guardian

David Gauke, the Treasury minister responsible for tax issues, told [Caroline] Lucas in a letter that it was already clear a land value tax (LVT) would be expensive (1) and an unfair burden on property developers,(2) which own undeveloped sites that currently escape tax.(3)

From The Telegraph:

David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary, made £67,000 in profit from the sale of his London flat, but under parliamentary rules is not required to return all the profit he made to the expenses watchdog...(4)

Earlier this year, Mr Gauke said that it was “morally wrong” for people to negotiate discounts with plumbers and traders by paying them cash. He suggested that such a deal helped traders to break the law by allowing them to evade VAT or income tax.(5)

Getting down to the nitty gritty:

1) What does he mean by "expensive"? Does he mean "would raise a lot of revenue"? If he does, that means that we can abolish income tax, VAT and National Insurance.

2) Even under a full-on LVT-only system, the tax on those sites would only be an average of £10,000 - £15,000 per plot per year, which is a lot less than the total current tax burden on each new home built, i.e. the income tax and NIC for construction workers and sub-contractors, all the taxes embedded in the prices of raw materials, the corporation tax on the profit from selling the house (a large part of which is the planning gain uplift) or the capital gains tax on the planning gains uplift (if the builder bought the land with planning).

3) Yes, the capitalised selling value of the undeveloped plots would fall, but so what? Under an LVT-only system, home builders will be paying less in tax (assuming they can finish off the houses fairly quickly once they get planning), it is only a one-off loss of the unrealised-unearned profits currently embedded in the value of their land banks.

Even ignoring the fact that they'd pay less under an LVT-only system, actual home builders (i.e. not the land speculators who make money by getting planning permission) will win in another respect: instead of borrowing money to buy a plot with planning for (say) £150,000 and paying £10,000 a year interest to the bank/bondholders (this is a privately collected tax on top of the publicly collected taxes they currently pay), they'll get the land for pennies and will be paying the £10,000 - £15,000 a year LVT to the local council, so if the worst comes to the worst, they can abandon the project and walk away, with no windfall loss and owing the bank/bondholders nothing.

4) This is how easy it is for the Home-Owner-Ist élite to corrupt the politicians, they just give them all a London flat, allow them their first delicious hit of tax-free windfall rent collection and then they're hooked for life.

5) Yes, David, but those taxes are very "expensive", so you're against them in principle, aren't you?

Friday 16 November 2012

Corby by-election results

Our candidate Rohen got 39 votes. Ah well, we did our best and everybody's got to start somewhere.

"Gazza ceasefire collapses"

From The Daily Mail:

Egypt's prime minister rushed to the aid of the troubled former England striker today in the midst of an Israeli offensive, calling the Israeli attacks 'a blatant aggression against humanity.'

In the first possible break in the escalating conflict, Israel had announced it would suspend military operations against the erstwhile Kettering Town manager during Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil's arrival in the then recovering alcoholic's enclave.

But as rockets blasted through the dawn sky, it was clear that promises of a three-hour ceasefire between Israel and Gazza had failed. Rockets fired from Newcastle United's most famous number eight's back window hit several sites in southern Israel so the Israeli air force responded with an attack on the now relapsed alcoholic's house, a source said.

But Israel's military strongly denied carrying out any attacks from the time Kandil entered the divorced father of one's home, and accused him of violating the three-hour deal.

"Israel has not attacked Gazza for the past two hours," a spokesman said.

"Even though about 50 rockets have fallen in Israel over the past two hours, we chose not to attack Gazza's dwelling due to the visit of the Egyptian prime minister. He is lying and reporting otherwise," the army said in a Twitter message.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visited the 45-year old to bring him a can of lager, some chicken and a fishing rod after two days of relentless attacks by Israeli warplanes determined to end the rocket fire at Israel. Kandil was greeted by the convicted drink-driver, who was making his first public appearance since his trial at Newcastle Magistrate's Court in 2010.

Daily Mail out by a factor of about four hundred, as per usual

From The Daily Mail:

Now that's double trouble! Woman, 25, beats odds of 170,000 to one by giving birth to twins for the second time

According to Wiki, about one birth in thirty* results in twins. We also know that some people are more likely to have twins than others, it's genetic as well as being related to age of mother, fertility treatment and diet. So if a mother has already had twins, let's assume that the chances of her having twins again is twice as high, maybe one-in-fifteen?

So the chances of any woman having two sets of twins is very approximately 1/30 x 1/15 = 1-in-450. Not 1-in-170,000, FFS.

But congrats to Mrs Power anyway, and I wish them all the best.

* Seems about right. There was a pair of fraternal twins in my class at primary school, and there was also a pair of fraternal twins in my class at secondary school. Was there a pair twins in your class at school?

Training Camp

Spotted by Chuckles at blameitonthevoices:

Thursday 15 November 2012

"Manganese Bronze taxi steering fault solution found"

From the BBC:

A steering fault [is] affecting up to 400 taxis made by Coventry firm LTI, say administrators running the firm.

The fault led to taxi drivers deliberately taking wrong turns, choosing the routes with the most hold-ups and ignoring obvious short cuts. Work to fix the problem is expected to take a month.

LTI's parent company Manganese Bronze went into administration earlier this month. Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said there will now be a "rapid replacement" of the affected parts in the recalled vehicles.

PwC's Matthew Hammond said: "The company's employees will be part of a massive effort to begin fitting the new UK-supplied steering box to the recalled fleet within the next 48 hours."

"Trickle up economics"

From Robin Smith's blog:

Giant Sinkhole Of The Week

From The Daily Mail. If the cows don't get you, the collapsed mine shafts will.

This is the sort of crap spouted by idiots who have never heard of "Double Tax Treaties"

Arch Home-Owner-Ist and all round corporate shill Allister Heath:

Writing in the Telegraph, Heath calls the current system of business taxation "mad and indefensible", with corporation tax being particularly unfair due to the offsets that some companies can make against their profits...

"The result is an incoherent, nightmarish tax that is clearly not fit for purpose and increasingly regular show trials, where legislators berate companies for following their own legislation but are unable to suggest any sensible reforms," said Heath.

Instead, a levy on income distributed to investors, which would include dividends, share buy-backs and interest payments, should replace the current business tax regime.

"This new levy would capture and tax just once all income generated from UK-based economic activity, dramatically reducing avoidance as well as the present double, triple or even quadruple taxation," said Heath. "Cash flows to investors from UK-generated activity would be taxed, not 'profits', so incentives to manipulate would disappear."

So he is merrily overhauling a tax system without knowing what that tax system actually is - as everybody else knows, the UK has double tax treaties with hundreds of countries which say, broadly speaking, that there is no withholding tax on dividends paid by UK companies to shareholders abroad, and in many cases, the same applies to interest payments.

Taking this week's whipping boy and scapegoat Starbucks, which is largely American owned, the underlying profits would not be taxed in the UK and neither would the distributions: it would pay no UK corporation tax at all. Clearly, it would still hand over nearly half its turnover in VAT and PAYE etc, but Heath et al appear to be oblivious to the fact that corporation tax is a only a minor irritant.

For clarity: his full article does not mention anywhere that his cunning plan would require the renegotiation and or abrogation of these hundreds of tax treaties with other countries - all of which contain provisions which benefit UK investors in overseas companies in equal and opposite measure, of course.


If you want a simple and fair tax system, you know what to tax...

Toyota announces 100 million recall of every car it has ever manufactured

From The Metro:

Car giant Toyota has said it will once again recall every single vehicle it has ever manufactured in its 75 year history over faults with steering wheels, brakes, and water pumps.

The Japanese car-maker said there were no reported injuries or accidents due to the issues. The recall, which includes a million British cars, affects every single model, from the 1935 A1 car and G1 light truck right up to the petrol-electric hybrid Prius, Corolla and Derbyshire-built Avensis models.

Globally four hundred and fifty three models are affected, Toyota said yesterday. The recalls follow millions of complaints worldwide Europe about faulty steering, faulty brakes and three hundred thousand reported cases of water-pump problems, specific to the Prius hybrids.

It comes just a month after the firm recalled every single vehicle worldwide over faulty window switches that could cause fires. Toyota, once lauded for its safety standards, has been forced into damage control mode after recalling every single car or van still on the road on several occasions in the past seven decades.

In 2009, it recalled all its cars after a child sitting in the front seat burned her finger with the cigarette lighter and another child slammed the door on his own foot.

Ah, those feckless youngsters...

From The Daily Mail*:

Tony and Pam Hughes, a newly married couple in their 30s don't intend to bother paying off their mortgage. And after 30 years of paying interest-only to the bank and retiring, they accept that there will be a shortfall of a quarter of a million pounds.

It will leave them with a terrible dilemma: they will have to move out of the house where they intend to spend the next five decades or take on more costly debt that will devour their children’s inheritance.

Like millions of first-time buyers in their 30s and 40s, they'll probably find themselves trapped. They will refuse to take responsibility and instead will claim that they have been the victim of a toxic combination of financial misfortunes.

Their generation hope to see the value of their homes soar from an average £160,000 to £900,000, an increase of over 500%, which is the kind of unearned, tax-free windfall which the government engineered for their parents and grandparents. But instead of enjoying this paper wealth, many will still be struggling to meet mortgage repayments, will refuse to move home and will still have loans and credit card debts into their 80s.

Last week, a report by the City watchdog the Financial Services Authority (FSA) highlighted that while many young people can’t get on to the property ladder, those who do will be barely clinging on. As a result, it found that it’s not just that young people are most likely to take huge mortgages with small deposits, but they will continue to run up debts for the rest of their lives.

In the case of Mr and Mrs Hughes, they will be stranded because they have taken out an interest-only mortgage. These loans are popular because they allow borrowers to keep their repayments low. However, they are only repaying the interest on their mortgage, but none of the original sum borrowed. Essentially, this means that when the mortgage term ends, they still owe precisely the same amount as they began with.

Tony, now 32, claims this was not clearly explained to him when he took out a £200,000 mortgage last year to buy a three-bedroom house in Tunbridge Wells. He has 28 years left to serve as a Royal Naval officer, and hopes to then be able to settle down with his wife Pam, a hairdresser.

Initially, the couple intended to take out a 100  per cent repayment mortgage. But attracted by the lower monthly payments, they later decided to take out an interest-only loan instead, even though the bank made no efforts to explain to them what "interest-only" means or why the monthly payments were much lower. They also decided that the windfall gain they'll get from owning land won't be enough for them, so have also decided to gamble on the stock market with a 25-year endowment — a type of savings plan — which they were told will cover the debt on their mortgage.

Last week they extended the mortgage to £240,000 — again interest-only — as they intend to buy a new Land Rover Defender for the school run.

Monthly mortgage repayments are £250, but meeting these bills, along with a number of credit card debts, is proving a struggle. To give themselves breathing space and lower payments, they will then extend the mortgage term by five years. Which won't make a blind bit of difference on an interest-only mortgage, but hey, this is The Daily Mail.

"We are at the point when we have nothing left over at the end of each month after essentials — we get bills and are never be sure if we can meet it," says Mr Hughes.

In order to stay in their home after early retirement, they hope to release equity from their property, which they hope will be worth £600,000. Using a company called Just Retirement, they'll be able to get £58,500 at an interest rate of 6.59 per cent. This will clear their second mortgage and give them some extra cash.

"An equity release mortgage isn't really a mortgage, is it?" asked Mr Hughes, "I mean, it's not like we have to pay it back or anything. I'm sure house prices will be rising faster than 6.59 per a year for the rest of our lives so it'll all sort itself out, I guess."

* Thanks to The Stigler for the nudge.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Click and highlight to see what she does in her day job

From The Sun

A RUSSIAN* woman is being hailed the world's hardest grandma after she fought a wolf with her bare hands.

Aishat Maksudova, a 56-year-old cow herder from Dagestan, pounced on the animal after it attacked one of her calves.

During a ferocious struggle, she punched the wolf repeatedly as it sank its teeth into the left side of her body. When the animal trapped her by biting down on her legs, she reached for an axe she'd been carrying with her and whacked it over the head until it was dead.

* That's a bit of an oversimplification. She is from Dagestan

Tuesday 13 November 2012


From the Pirate Party UK Forum:

Calabamat: Has anyone heard of the Young People's Party? They're running a candidate in the Corby by-election.

Plooterman: No never heard of them. Interesting set of policies. They seemed to have picked a strange party name (yes I appreciate this comment is coming from a member of the Pirate Party)...

Life Imitates Art...


Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, 44, has been selling fish and chips from the back of a van in the sleepy English village where she lives.It’s the latest example of Presley embracing local life since moving to Rotherfield, in southeast England, two years ago

I didn't realise that this is what "universal" means...

When IDS first announced the idea of rolling lots of different little benefits into a "Universal Credit" with a "Single Unified Taper", I thought that this sounded like an important first step towards a full Citizen's Income-type welfare system.

Either I've missed something important or somebody didn't read the memo properly, "universal" appears to include everybody except...

Pensioners with savings or other income.

Higher earners esp. those who would become step-parents.

People with large families.

People who work part-time.

People under 21.

People who are under 25 or who can't find work.

People who refuse to work for free.

People who drink or take drugs.

People with disabilities.

Anybody else to whom the computer says no.

Thanks to Bob E for help in compiling this list.

"Two men admit stealing £46 scrap and selling it as £500,000 Henry Moore sculpture"

From The Daily Mail:

Two men have admitted stealing scrap worth just £46 and passing it off as a Henry Moore sculpture worth up to £500,000.

At St Albans Crown CourtLiam Hughes, 22, and 19-year-old Jason Parker, from Coltsfield, Essex, both pleaded guilty to stealing old car parts and welding them together into the shape of a sundial sculpture and the sculpture's bronze plinth.

The Sundial, created by the two in 2011 as a working model to test the gullibility of stately home owners, was delivered to the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation in Much Hadham, Herts, on July 10. The sculpture's bronze plinth was delivered on July 15 this year. Hughes and Parker, both of pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud when they appeared at St Albans Crown Court yesterday.

Prosecutor Ann Evans said: "These two worthless items were delivered on separate occasions by these defendants, even though the parts had been taken from a scrap dealer. He had hoped to sell the parts used for the sundial for £46 and the parts for the the plinth for £200. These defendants had a pretty good idea of what they would be worth if passed off as a Henry Moore. When they were arrested by the police they said they had found the items in a dustbin behind Bonhams.

"Clearly the sculpture, a never-seen-before Henry Moore would be priceless. The director of the foundation initially valued it between £250,000 and £500,000. Henry Moore in his will said no cast of any of his works could be created, so there was great joy when it was 'returned' because it could never have been replaced. The scrap dealer also had no idea what he could have sold his old machine or car parts for. He was hoping for a couple of hundred quid at best."