4 March 2016

Taking a bung………..

Whilst the tedious matter of 'to be' or 'not to be' in the EU hogs the headlines, another, rather nastier piece of legislation is making its way, quietly, through our legislative process. The Conservatives, no longer shackled by their coalition with the LibDems, are pushing through their 'Housing & Planning Bill' which, in some eyes, signals the end of 'affordable' housing.

This new piece of legislation is just a logical extension of the original 'Right to Buy' from 1982 which allowed Council tenants to buy their council flat or house at a huge discount, a bribe in anyone's language. The idea was that the RtB moved people, or more accurately, some people, out of poverty by giving them the opportunity to get into further mortgage based debt.

The Tories have used this strategy (bribery) with great success when selling off public assets where everything has been discounted (see Tell Sid. Classic Thatcher-era advert to sell off British Gas shares | Daily Mail Online ). Yet there are almost no examples of this strategy delivering 'competition' - BT escapes forced split from Openreach – for now | The Week UK and efficiency - Natural monopolies exist when one firm dominates an industry.

All the Tories have been doing is slavishly and blindly following Adam Smith's proposal that the full mercantile value of any given good or service can only be extracted when such good or service is in single rather than communal or community ownership. Notably, the Tories have failed to consider the social or societal implications of this approach when it is followed without consideration to its implications. (I suppose it is unfair to suggest that this failure could be excused as an example of genetic blindness.) Smith did consider the implications and I suspect that he would find the Tory approach as distasteful as I find it.

But, of course, the Tories are rescued by none other than Gordon Gekko (from 1987) who opined that "Greed is Good, Greed Works" and, in that, they have been proved right. Greed, or bribery, has been an effective way of co-opting the public and suppressing opposition to the sell-off of public assets, after all, who can turn down a free lunch?

I wish that the 'Housing & Planning Bill' was the last chapter in this sorry story but I doubt that will be the case - greed and self interest will ensure that any effort to consider the 'good of society' will come far down any list of Tory priorities.

What I am sure of is that the property market in London (described elsewhere as a global reserve currency) will continue its inflationary spiral upward, driven by dodgy money from Russian oligarchs and City Boy's bonuses. This latest piece of corrupting legislation will only steepen that curve.

Please note: the illustration at the top of this entry refers only to the 'Housing and Planning Bill' and should not be interpreted as a reference to Somerton Town Council, past or present.