A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

New policies not a new leader will help Labour win

Buried in amongst the attempts by the sunday papers to keep speculation about the Labour leadership going with publication of a leaked draft of a memo written nearly a year ago was a very good policy idea from Stephen Byers. To quote the Observer:

"Byers called for Margaret Thatcher's right-to-buy programme for council homes to be turned into a deposit scheme where instead of getting discounts of up to £38,000 tenants could use the money as a deposit to buy a private home - thus helping unlock the crippled housing market."

And freeing up social housing for new tenants who need it.

It would be nice to hope that we could move from a debate about personalities to one about which policies will help Labour get back into a winning position.

That Labour could still do that is shown by a further small increase in the party's opinion poll share to 29% in today's ICM poll. Factor in the inevitable recovery all governments see in their polling position as you come out of the midterm (and in this case out of an economic bad patch) and you can see we are still in the game for a fourth term.

33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Labour people, myself included, the problem with Brown's tenure thus far has been the utter lack of policy and vision.We are being buffeted by events precisely because we have no agenda for the future, or rather Brown has failed to set out any sort of agenda.

Yes,Byers idea was interesting, but Byers isn't a member of the government.

7:51 pm, August 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We just nmeed good soundbites not a good agenda, or vision. Soundbites and polices. An agendam uis too vague.

10:14 pm, August 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think agendas are too vague what does an agenda mean?
What we need is policies linked to soundbiters.

10:15 pm, August 03, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

Do you have any idea how unpopular this would be with the 95% of first time buyers who haven't been able to get a council house and have been renting privately?

Want a really radical policy? Extend the right to buy to private tenants. At the very least, if a landlord sells or is repossessed (quite common this year), the tenant gets first refusal on the property at 15% below RICS assessed value.

9:04 am, August 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Dan said...

It's an unworkable idea - where is the money for the deposits supposed to come from? Even a budget could be found, an increased supply of cash into the housing market would just price out other buyers and ultimately create another unsustainable boom.

And John, the problem with your alternative is that nobody would ever rent out a property if it prevented you from ever selling at market value. A collapse in the private rental market is in nobody's interest.

10:37 am, August 04, 2008

 
Blogger Newmania said...

Luke the ICM Poll was
CON 45% (+2): LAB 29% (+1): LD 16% (-3)

The most significant news in a new ICM poll in the Sunday Express is that the Lib Dems have slumped to their lowest ratings from the firm since well before Nick Clegg became leader last December. The 16% is not much better than the 14% that ICM had at the start of October 2007 just before Ming announced that he was going.

In terms of seats Labour are even worse off so your spin is a lie. Explain to me again why it is when hard working self relaint families are getting repossesed their taxes should be used to buy people free houses...It was because....?

1:54 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Anonymous tim f said...

"Do you have any idea how unpopular this would be with the 95% of first time buyers who haven't been able to get a council house and have been renting privately?

Want a really radical policy? Extend the right to buy to private tenants. At the very least, if a landlord sells or is repossessed (quite common this year), the tenant gets first refusal on the property at 15% below RICS assessed value."

I agree with all of this. Dan - what are landlords going to do if they don't rent it out? If they do nothing with it they lose money. If they put it on the market or sell it to a developer they create supply. Smart councils running housing associations could buy up some of the property creating areas of mixed tenure.

2:57 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Blogger Newmania said...

I agree with all of this. Dan - what are landlords going to do if they don't rent it out? If they do nothing with it they lose money. If they put it on the market or sell it to a developer they create supply.

Yeah thats brilliant why not steal their cars fuck their wives and salt their rose garden`s as well ? What was their crime , oh yes supplying a need at the market rate? Good old Labour

3:15 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

"What was their crime"

Gambling with borrowed money by cornering the market in a scarce commodity.

3:39 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Blogger Alex Finnegan said...

I agree with Byers. Things are still retrievable for Labour and his policy suggestion is a good example of some of the positive thinking still being done. At the same time as following his suggestion, the government could scrap stamp duty and in the process outflank the Tories and create a tax-free savings scheme for first time buyers. I think this would help to ease some of the pressure on the housing market.

6:20 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

Alex are you Kirstie Allsopp or her PR agent? The pressure on the housing market is easing. Houses are getting cheaper. That, in case anyone needs reminding, is a good thing, not a bad one.

Again.

Affordable housing = Good.

The housing market is driven by affordability. Anything you to to "help" first-time buyers is actually a subsidy to sellers, who will be able to achieve higher prices, not to buyers.

7:18 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Blogger Matthew said...

I'm not sure that the policies and the personalities are divisible - particularly when so many of the problems we currently face cannot be 'solved' by national governments, only articulated and managed.

The government's actually come out with some good policies in the last few weeks (pre recess) but even then, no one was listening because it doesn't talk in a language people can understand.

9:39 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

On one level its not a bad idea but I can see it actually being quite divisive - and I also wonder, given the largely residual nature of council housing, whether many would have the ability to get a mortgage given the clampdown?

I think the problem is that there doesn't appear to be any 'big picture'. I didn't like a lot of what Blair believed in, but I liked other aspects of it. However, there was a sense of an overall direction. I don't feel that is the case now.

10:13 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

From what I'm seeing it doesn't look like Labour are shifting in the right direction and every day they are more like the old conservative party.

Brown and his advisors seem to think that they can spin their way out of this with a new image for Brown and some tactical ways of dealing with policy outside of the media.

Labour won't win Luke it is a done deal, you are going to lose. Everything is against you now and people in general have made their minds up about your party. You have lost your chance with the swing voter and they are lost for a very long time. I think the only way to reduce your loses would be to connect with the traditional labour supporters but from what I'm seeing that is looking very unlikely aswell.

Just look at the fiasco of this coal powered power station at a time when we are signing up to a raft of carbon cutting legislation. Yes would should be using our coal but not more of it by building bigger plants. You have lost 1000s of Labour supporters just there alone.

It strikes me that Labour are now rushing as they have wasted too much time under the blair years. Your lack of planning and strategy is really starting to show and the voters know it. It all appears rushed.

10:34 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

With respect to housing the lesson that Brown should have learned from the Tories was not to let house prices get out of hand.

There really is very little that can be done other than watch the market collapse and bring down the rest of the economy. The more incentives you give to first time buyers the greater risk there is of worsening the problem in the long term. What they should be doing is allowing the housing market to stabilise naturally but provide help to households that are struggling to cope with their mortgages. It must be a priority to prevent repossessions whenever possible as this just creates other problems.

The problem is the government is listening to the big house builders who are very keen to unload 1000s of newly built homes to the social housing sector as they can't sell them. The problem is most housing associations are also feeling the affects of the credit crunch and simply can't afford the investment.

A tax bailout to help the house building sector is not acceptable but a tax bailout to help those people meet their repayments is. I think it is cost effective to help people keep their homes in the long run....controversial but it has to save money in the long run.

10:46 pm, August 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the government is currently supporting the "intermediary" sector of housing to the tune of about £700m a year.

In effect, it is supporting a lot of amateur landlords who have bought properties on buy-to-let.

These have been leased out to the public sector with the rent bill via housing benefit being picked up by the state.

Since the government is already picking up the bill for the mortgage it seems a sensible option for it simply to buy the asset too in the meantime.

Propping up private landlords through HB was yet another means that his moron in Downing Street managed to cock-up the UK economy.

12:06 am, August 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Housing benefit has to paid no matter what as there are a lot of people with earnings so low they would be unable to pay their full rent. So that £700 million bill is probably worth every penny if it means it keeps people with a roof over their head.

My point really is that it is in the interest of government to make sure those who have mortgages don't lose their investment through repossession. This could be done via interest free government loans to home owners who are facing arrears greater than 2 months.

That £700 million bill could soon soar to billions if people lose their homes as a result of the credit crunch. There is also the impact on jobs as a lot of employers these days credit check their staff.

5:54 pm, August 05, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

"it is in the interest of government to make sure those who have mortgages don't lose their investment through repossession"

OK. I can see a case for that. If you do that though, I would always borrow the maximum amount of money I could lay my hands on, knowing I'd never have to face the consequences. Whose job would it be, under your system, to stop me?

7:07 pm, August 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hang on, here a mo.

Those landlords know that they will be able to finance properties through HB. Moreover, they know they will be able finance these properties because the government will pay whatever - irrespective almost of the market price.

Don't you think that this situation would drive up property prices and drive out first time buyers creating a false heavily inflated market?

11:40 pm, August 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why council tenants should get a subsidy to compete with me to buy a private house when they are not necessarily in a poorer financial position - in fact, often they may be better placed financially since they will have had their rent subsidised by me for years.

11:03 am, August 06, 2008

 
Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

"they will have had their rent subsidised by me for years"

A misapprehension.

Council tenants' rent subsidises the public purse significantly every year rather than the other way around.

11:23 am, August 06, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even when they are massively below the market rate?
How can that be possible?

11:55 am, August 06, 2008

 
Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Presumably because the profit margins which are included in market rates are massively reduced. But off the top of my head there's a couple of billion a year net subsidy to the Treasury from council tenants.

11:58 am, August 06, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Treasury rather than the local authority?

I simply cannot understand how it is just that council tenants' rent is not dead money but for a private tenant it is. Particularly since, if they pay rent below the market rate, they may be substantially financially better off than a private tenant anyway.

12:01 pm, August 06, 2008

 
Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

My figures were a bit out (poor memory) but see here http://www.housingea.co.uk/lga_and_almos_launch_attack_on_government_tax_policies or Google "My rent went to Whitehall"

12:05 pm, August 06, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

Anonymous, it's because most council houses were built a long time ago when land was cheap, whereas most private rentals have been built or changed hands relatively recently.

Therefore the private landlord has a much bigger debt burden than the public sector landlord, against which the rent has to be offset before anything can be called 'profit'.

Nonetheless, most council rents are below the market rate, so you are "subsidising" them compared to what the sums would look like if they were rented out to the highest bidder.

2:09 pm, August 06, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John,
I still don't see why anyone would support giving a 38k gift to someone who has already benefited from paying extremely low rent their entire adult lives.

I am willing to concede on the subsidy point.

3:35 pm, August 06, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

"I still don't see why anyone would support giving a 38k gift to someone who has already benefited from paying extremely low rent their entire adult lives."

Neither do I, but the right to buy is a Tory policy, just one Labour has never dared reverse (and I imagine some New Labour types genuinely support).

However, if we're going to give people a £38,000 gift by selling them a £150,000 house for £112,000, then I don't see the difference between doing that, or giving them the £38,000 and keeping the house. Indeed arguably the house is more use to use than the £38,000, given the complexities of acquiring a new one for social rent.

At least I don't see the difference in principle. I see the difference in political terms - the permanent loss to Labour of the votes of a generation of people who have been renting privately while house prices have been forced up.

4:47 pm, August 06, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not arguing this from an accountancy perspective but from a social justice perspective, as it applies to the individual.

Why target support at people with a specifc type of living arrangement like this rather than targeting people with the greatest need?

5:13 pm, August 06, 2008

 
Anonymous John said...

I imagine the argument is that this gets you a double hit - it gets one family out of social rented accommodation and into owner-occupation (seen as good) and it gets another family out of the waiting list and into social rented accommodation.

Given a fairly fixed amount of housing, I'm not clear that it's as simple as that, as presumably another would-be first-time buyer gets priced out and ends up in private rental and / or on the council waiting list, but hey.

11:50 pm, August 06, 2008

 
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Blogger StratfordDave said...

I don't see this working without a huge increase in the housing budget. There is a world of difference between a discount on a notional value (ie £38,000 not being charged in the price) and actually finding that sum to hand over to a seller.

1:30 pm, August 08, 2008

 

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