Reflections on housing and house building in the UK

avril 18th, 2020

Now that the question of Brexit has been settled following the general election victory, it gives us chance to discuss some incredibly pressing domestic issues.

Perhaps the most pressing issue is that of homeownership, and with it, home building.

As Conservatives we fundamentally understand that the best way to build a cohesive society is for the people within a country to own their home, lay some roots and feel part of their community.

Regrettably this aspiration for many people, particularly the youngest, is fast becoming a fantasy.

It is not an issue that has been born out overnight, it’s the result of over 30 years of changing legislation and economics that have created the problem.

Since the mid 2000s, Labour and Conservative governments have tried to help younger buyers get on to the housing ladder. Labour reduced stamp duty land tax to 0% for first time buyers. The Conservatives, under David Cameron, introduced amongst other things the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme.

Sadly, all the measures seem to have done is to stoke the demand side of the market without addressing the other issue on the probable lack of supply. As a result, house prices keep continuing to rise, and vastly faster than increases in wages.

As a result, in 1998 the average house price was 4 times the average annual salary. Today it is 8 times the average annual salary.

When discussing homeownership amongst the youngest, in 1991 67% of 25 to 34 year olds owned their own home. Today that figure has fallen to just 38% and given birth to the term, ‘generation Rent.’

Whilst the reasons for this phenomenon are complex, part of the issue is the lack of homebuilding. Changes in legislation and market forces often mean that large developers find it more profitable to sit on land rather than build.

Based on 2016 prices, the average price of residential land in the mid 1950s was £150k per hectare. In the mid 1990s it had increased to £1.3m and by 2007 £5m.

In England, land without planning permission is worth £20k per hectare. The same land with planning permission is worth £2m per hectare.

Coupled with these issues has been the extreme lack of new housing that has been delivered. France, a country with a comparable population and population growth to the UK, has completed 16.7 million new homes since 1970. In the same period, the UK has completed just 8.9 million.

It is good to see that our manifesto has pledged to close this housing gap by firstly pledging to complete 300,000 new homes a year. Additionally there is a pledge to provide support for builders using modern methods of construction and by making it easier for people to self build should they chose to.

It is still worth noting, however, that some analysts and commentators are very skeptical as to whether these measures go far enough. Further analysis, legislation and support will be required to the construction industry in the years to come.

The risk for the Conservative party politically is stark. As Labour elects a new leader the threat of socialism is still close at hand, whoever replaces Jeremy Corbyn.

Given that scores of 18-24 year olds flock to the left wing cause, and are very anti-Brexit, unless we are able to deal with issue and show that only a Conservative government can really help people achieve the simplest of aspirations, we may find ourselves out of power again for a duration similar to that from 1997 to 2010.

Andrew Crawford,

Secretary,

British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP)

Feedback from British Conservatives in Paris to Conservative Policy Forum (15 February, 2020) concerning the Queen’s speech

avril 18th, 2020

1.

·         General: the overall balance between the international role of the UK on the one hand and the emphasis on a One Nation approach to “healing” the nation & the body politic is commendable

·         Particular points we were happy to see included

o   The points-based immigration system

o   The “NHS Long Term Plan”

o   The proposal to increase funding per pupil “to ensure all children can access a high quality education”

§  Cf we have recommended elsewhere that the cost of higher education puts an unconscionable burden on young people and invited policy makers to consider how things are done in certain countries on the Continent such as France or Germany (not to suggest that those countries have perfect systems:  it is noteworthy however that in them there is a very broad consensus in favour of distinctly modest/virtually nominal tuition fees)

o   The “Renters’ Reform Bill”

§  Again reference to what actually happens in France and Germany (legal regime, market conditions) would be instructive

·         In France the renters may be over-protected:  the system does however prevent much or most egregious abuses by landlords – of particular importance given the unaffordability of housing for own home purchase for a very large share of the (especially younger) part of the population

·         In Germany there is a massive private rental housing sector which provides quality housing in attractive locations with protections for renters designed to allow them to make a choice in favour of longterm rentals

o   Germans’ appetite for such rentals is sometimes blamed for the surprisingly low net worth of German private households

§  However again the point for the UK situation is the inaccessibility of housing on the buy/sell market and thus the need for remedial measures elsewhere

o   The “Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill”

o   Policy to invest in public services and infrastructure

§  Cf budget/national debt policies

·         One might infer from the speech that tax increases somewhere will be necessary to maintain the financial equilibrium called for therein

o   Clarification in this area will be needed – politically and practically – in the near future

o   Levelling up across regions

§  Same comment as in preceding point re public finances

·         NB:  this is not intended to convey the message that we are lukewarm on this “Northern Strategy” policy – on the contrary!

o   Reform business rates

o   Consider constitutional issues raised by the Brexit “saga”

§  The role of the courts is a major question:  does the UK wish to go the way of the US with “government by the judges” across the board?

·         Hopefully not

§  Fixed-term Parliaments Act:  has proved problematical in practice and therefore deserves to be fundamentally called into question

o   “Integrated Defence, Security and Foreign Policy Review”

§  The state of the world as it is today calls for such a review:  fundamental shifts are occurring on many fronts and on many levels

2.

·         General:  the thrust and most of the particular items in the speech were well received

o   A handful of items encountered minority questioning

·         Particular items with majority reserves

o   Increase local powers to tackle air pollution

§  Problems

·         Is the nature of such problems not inherently national (or wider) in scope (even if there may be local sources of pollution:  these should be addressed in the larger context)?

·         Even ignoring the first point:  local authorities may lack the technical competence and/or political will and/or clout to effectively deal with such issues

o   “animals as sentient beings”

§  In agreement with the principle of avoiding cruelty to animals

§  Cave:  avoiding providing succour to animal rights extremists

3.

·         General comment:  there were some omissions we deemed regrettable

·         Particulars

o   Some indications were given as to areas of infrastructure spending (eg wrt transport) however a bit more here would have been helpful

o   Withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights?:  or meaningful threats at least to do the same (or suspend membership) to resist the politicisation of that instrument and of the ECHR, and their surreptitious partial capture/being subjected to influence by unrepresentative groups (cf recent serious of articles in Valeurs Actuelles on the subject; and the general evolution of ECHR decisions in recent times)

o   On foreign policy major issues:  perhaps at least some general indication of the direction of travel on specific subjects might have been helpful, eg

§  The recently presented US peace plan for Israel and Palestine

§  Libya

§  China

§  Etc

§  – taking care of course not to unduly tie the hands of the government for dealing with future circumstances

o   “votes for life”

o   Re financial services:  what is the aim wrt the future relationship with UE/27 in this area?

o   Addressing the housing shortage:  a “mega issue” in our view

§  Cf

·         Problems of social justice

o   A major share of the population has “lucked into” vast housing wealth they never contemplated

o   While another major share has “un-lucked into” a prospect of a lifelong housing poverty (at least in relative terms) – regardless of hard work etc

·         Imbalances created by new trends in financial flows worldwide “distorting” or at least mightily impacting housing markets:  why should the government consider it appropriate to sit by passively and “let the market do its work/worst”?  ↘ Government has a responsibility to address big issues arising out of such massive disruption of economic flows and (im)balances

o   Policy on GAFA et al

§  Including taxation

o   Productivity levels in the UK – how to address the relatively poor performance of the UK in recent decades as against eg France, Germany & many other countries

Paul Thomson

Vice Chairman/CPF Secretary

BCiP

UK Conservatives Abroad France Branch – new Meetup Group launch.

février 14th, 2020

Rafael Pittman, Regional Coordinator, France for UK Conservatives Abroad, has launched a new Meetup group to increase membership of the Conservative party within the expatriate British community in France.

Find out more by clicking on the Meetup link below.

UK Conservatives Abroad France branch

Paris, FR
12 Members

This group meets in Paris and London and is a focal point for ex pat members of the Conservative party making sure ex pat issues such as overseas voting rights are brought to …

Next Meetup

Conservatives. Abroad France – February Meeting

Saturday, Feb 29, 2020, 3:00 PM
1 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Season’s greetings from Erika Angelidi

décembre 23rd, 2019

From Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad representative in Athens, Greece:

Season’s Greetings!

I would like to wish all the best for this blog and its members.

Very best wishes,

Erika

Political Promises & Responsibilities

octobre 29th, 2019

Boris Johnson’s failure to follow through on his wonderful-sounding promises for Brexit , blaming his failures instead on Jeremy Corbyn, an unruly Parliament, the EU…. etc. , reveals himself as neither de Gaulle, nor Churchill, nor Thatcher, nor Reagan, nor Trump, according to BCiP member Evelyne Joslain, comparing e.g. President Trump’s seemingly successful manoeuvring with respect to Syria and the surrounding region in her article below.

Promesses et Responsabilités

International Socialism – the Pest of our Times.

octobre 16th, 2019

BCiP member Evelyne Joslain takes issue with international socialism as the pest of our times:

La peste de notre temps_EJoslain_5.X.2019

La Peste de notre temps__2e partie_17.X.2019

The election of Boris Johnson is a bridge too far – Peter Huggins

juillet 25th, 2019
Peter Huggins, a long standing member of the Conservative party, writes to BCiP Chairman Jeremy Stubbs on why he is now resigning.
————————————————————-
Dear Jeremy,
Although my attachment to the Conservative party was already well established, I began active service in 1951. The Atlee government had been hanging by the thread of a tiny and unreliable majority and decided on a snap election in October. At the time, posters in the windows of individual houses were important to get candidates known. I helped to deliver such posters to the party faithful on Shooters Hill, part of the very marginal constituency of West Woolwich. We won the constituency from Labour contributing to a Conservative majority in Parliament and the return of Churchill as PM. It was a happy new dawn for freedom and enterprise.
Ever since, I have supported the party consistently, if not uncritically. Recent years have been difficult as the party has increasingly fallen into the hands of intolerant Jingoists, many of them with links to UKIP or the Farage party. Today’s election of the new party leader is a bridge too far on this involuntary journey. The party has now chosen a dishonest and irresponsible charlatan loyal neither to country, nor party, nor family. His contempt for Parliament and the British Constitution is unbounded. As of today, the choice is between party membership and self respect. I have chosen the latter.
I wish all the best to you and the BCiP. I thank you for the rewarding times we have spent together. It is sad that the mindless drift of the party towards Faragism has done such lasting damage to British Conservatism. Perhaps in a happier and better informed future, it will come to its senses and the disillusioned faithful will return to the fold.
With my very best wishes,
Peter

Nigel Farage & the Brexit Party.

mai 13th, 2019

BCiP member Evelyne Joslain in her article below on the UK’s Brexit Party, is sorry that there is currently no equivalent « French Farage ».

Farage et le Brexit Party

BREXIT – How did we get here?

mai 6th, 2019

How did the UK get to where it stands today with Brexit asks BCiP member Andrew Crawford, as he traces the tortuous path Britain has taken in his position paper below.

Brexit- How did we get here?

Disability & Inclusion – Conservative Policy Forum Submission (BCiP)

janvier 6th, 2019
Name of Constituency: Conservatives Abroad
Name of CPF Group: British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP)
Name of CPF Coordinator: Paul Thomson
Email address: Paul.thomson@saint-gobain.com
Number of attendees: Aged <25 25-39 40-65 >65
Members: 1 3 (+ 1 who sent in comments)
Non-members: 1 (+ 1 who sent in comments)
Date of meeting: 18th December 2018
If you have a Conservative MP, please tick this box to confirm that you have sent a copy of this response to your MP: 
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1.    Housing: How might we better build homes and buildings that everyone can access and use, so as to build a society in which all can participate fully?  –  (i) For both social and private housing projects a minimum percentage for disabilities-friendly units should be imposed by law.   (ii) Already used measures for assisting the disabled should be expanded as much as reasonably possible eg (a) automatic/push buttons doors, (b) installation of escalators or lifts, (c) providing sufficiently wide corridors, WC’s etc so that those in wheelchairs or otherwise encumbered (eg with crutches) can nevertheless move about.   (iii) Explore the use of robots to facilitate life for the disabled mainly at home but also in the workplace & in public spaces.   (iv) The potential for public private partnerships should be explored and (with suitable safeguards) realised.  (a) There have been successful examples in the UK eg Civitas.  (b) In France the housing sector for elderly people not able to look after themselves has been usefully expanded by recourse to privately funded entities working within the framework of public standards (including enforcement mechanisms).  (c) The trend toward increasing focus by (large) private companies on “corporate social responsibility” could no doubt be tapped by encouraging companies to contribute to more disabled-friendly buildings (special financial incentives?  Bestowing of a flattering public label expressing recognition of “good works”?).  (d) Resort to specialised services companies may also allow innovative solutions to particular needs to be achieved.  In France this is a sector – in particular in relation to services provided in a hospital setting – which is undergoing a spectacular degree of development, notably through services accessible online but allowing tailoring of what is actually carried out to meet users’ specific needs/wishes.   (v) For those already housed but having developed a disability post-moving in the provision of financial support for making necessary adjustments to the home environment – may result in the person being able to continue to carry on a relatively normal existence in society where, without such support, he/she would not be able to do so (or not without being a greater burden on public services in other ways).

 

2.    Transport: How might we better adapt our transport systems so as to offer people with disabilities the same access to transport as everyone else?  –  (i) Expand use of special markers to guide the disabled.   (ii) Avoid steps in trains & buses.   (iii) Encourage the provision of services in trains (insofar as not already available) to alleviate the difficulties of those with mobility problems.   (iv) So far as reasonably possible provide lifts & escalators in train & bus stations – & indicate on corresponding maps which stations provide ease of access for those with mobility limitations.   (v) More broadly:  include in the government’s “Transport Strategy” regulations for disabled passengers to facilitate access to & egress from taxis, buses, trams, trains & air transport systems.   (vi) Take measures to avoid blockages on pavements (eg rubbish bins) which can create major problems for those moving about by wheel chair (eg if the pavement is not wide enough to avoid the obstacles without going onto the roadway).  Perhaps introduce fines to discourage a-social behaviour in this area?   (vii) Ensure ongoing recognition of disability badges issued by other EU member states – even after Brexit & even if no specific agreement on reciprocity on the subject is achieved between the UK & EU27 or other member states individually.

 

3.    Health: How might we more effectively reduce the health gap experienced by people with a learning disability, mental health conditions or autism, so as to help everyone to live full, healthy and independent lives?  –  (i) Supply training programmes to favour the employability of the disabled.   (ii) Provide/facilitate regular medical and/or psychological surveillance of those in need in order to avoid a gradual (or abrupt) disengagement from society.   (iii) Foster a culture of respect for those with disabilities – underlining the shared humanity of us all; and the importance to all of us of our vital needs being given due consideration by society.   (iv) Expand the Health Charter to include health care providers to those with learning disabilities, mental health conditions or autism.

 

4.    Employment: How might we work more effectively with employers and people with health conditions so as to help as many as possible to get into and stay in employment?  –  (i) Require employers with above a given threshold of employees to employ a minimum percentage of disabled persons or to contribute to one of a designated set of programmes favouring the inclusion in the work force of the disabled.   (ii) Grant financial support to employers (where appropriate) to assist in the recruiting & training & retention of disabled persons.   (iii) Develop sophisticated but pedagogically effective on-line & obligatory training models for (a) HR personnel, (b) non-disabled (future) fellow employees & (c) the disabled – to provide a guide to the integration of the disabled in the work place:  akin to what is presently done in the field of compliance in large organisations.   (iv) Determine with employers the special needs of specific groups eg (a) ex-servicemen (cf PTSD), (b) ex-prisoners etc.

 

5.    Participation in Society: How might we better support candidates with disabilities to stand for public office, so that those elected better reflect the diversity of society?  –  (i) Supply public assistance eg for transport for candidates with disabilities (ie so it would not have to come out of the campaign budget).   (ii) Create a very low minimum required number of representatives of disabled persons – to habituate the general public to the idea that being handicapped is not necessarily incompatible with assuming public responsibilities.   (iii) Avoid too “macho” a political culture – though this is not intended to suggest that robust debate & rhetoric should be discouraged.  Gestures suggesting physical contact should be proscribed (if this is not already the case).   (iv) Opinion “elevation” campaigns could be carried out to promote the idea that the public realm is one in which, to be sure there is a healthy competition for voter support – but which also should by definition be open to all:  we should all look at our fellow members of the body politic & of society with a heightened sensitivity for our common humanity & our shared interest in making work the society & institutions of the UK.   (v) Those interested in politics & possibly standing for office should be encouraged to join the Conservative Parties (or even other parties if they must!) & should be given canvassing support initially at the local council level & then at the national level – in appropriate cases, but these should be sought out – to achieve a demonstration that persons with handicaps can contribute to society also in politics (cf eg Robert Halpen MP; or indeed, to look abroad, Wolfgang Schäuble – longtime Finance Minister for Germany & today President of Germany’s lower chamber of parliament (Bundestag) & one of the most senior & most highly respected politicians in the land – notwithstanding being confined to wheelchair since the 1990s.

 

6.    Culture Change: How might we all deliver further positive change for people with disabilities, so that society does not miss out on the contribution of any person?  –  (i) Role models in public media (news/weather presenter) can be helpful:  there have been positive examples in the British media including the BBC.   (ii) See § 5(iv) above.   (iii) Honouring the disabled in a convincing/effective way ie designed to attract public attention & sympathy is worthwhile:  eg the Invictus Games.   (iv) As a complement to § (iii):  avoid going “over the top” ie making exaggerated or non-credible affirmations/claims.   (v) The Transforming Care programme at local community level & aimed at improving health outcomes and quality of life for those with a learning disability and/or autism could be promoted by:  (a) giving it more exposure in the media, (b) being expanded, (c) organising the sharing of experiences among/across local communities & (d) supporting the police in their dealings with those presenting “challenging behaviour”.

 

7. Is there any other question you think should have been asked or observation you would like to make?  –  (i) The Government (& the Conservative Party) should communicate much more about all that has been done in this area – which is absolutely considerable (cf Brief).  It is wrong that we should be perceived as unfeeling etc when on the contrary so much has been undertaken – in a serious, hands-on, long-term based fashion.  This represents a failure of communication, but also – and let us be positive – an opportunity to better inform the people of the UK & give them a fairer, and more uplifting, view of what the Conservative Party is.   (ii) As a corollary to the foregoing:  PR disasters such as the one deriving from the so-called “dementia tax” are best avoided.   (iii) The goal in the latest manifesto of getting one million more people with disabilities into employment (an increase of almost 30%) should not be kept under a barrel – and its greater social significance, namely of allowing all those people to be much more fully a part of society, should be clearly spelled out for the general public.   (iv) Special educational needs are a related topic.  Excellent results have been achieved in the education of children with Asperser’s syndrome over recent decades – allowing those concerned to limit considerable suffering & also to contribute in a material way to society (through the exceptional skills of the persons suffering from the same).  However, the provision of specialist help is considered by one of our participants as patchy – with greater concentration on this area being called for.

 

 

FEEDBACK ON PAPER
What did you find useful?  –  The paper as a whole was useful & well done.  Congratulations!

 

What did you not find helpful?  –  Nothing

 

Do you have any suggestions for how we might improve future briefings?  –  Not at this stage

 

Thank You.  Please return to: CPF.Papers@conservatives.com